J.C. Penney Q4 Disappoints

For fiscal 2012, J.C. Penney Co., Inc. reported a net loss of $985 million or $4.49 per share. Excluding markdowns related to the alignment of inventory with the company’s new selling strategy, restructuring and management transition charges, non-cash primary pension plan expense and net gain on the sale or redemption of non-operating assets, the retailer adjusted net loss was $766 million or $3.49 per share.

Net loss in the prior year was $152 million, or 70 cents per share.

The company posted a sales decline of 24.8% to $12.99 billion including $163 million in sales from a 53rd week in the fiscal year. Comparable store sales, which excluded the extra week, fell 25.2%.

Internet sales through jcp.com were $1.02 billion, down 33% from the 2011 fiscal year.

For the quarter, J.C. Penney reported a net loss of $552 million, or $2.51 per share. Excluding one-time expenses, the retailer said its fourth quarter adjusted net loss was $427 million, or $1.95 per share. For the 2011 period, net loss was $87 million, or 41 cents per share.

Fourth quarter total sales, which included the $163 million of 53rd week sales, tumbled 28.4% to $3.88 billion, J.C. Penney stated. Comparable store sales slipped 31.7%.

Internet sales through jcp.com in the fourth quarter were $315 million, down 34.% from the year earlier.

Citi Research analyst Deborah Weinswig, in a research note, called J.C. Penney’s fourth quarter results “disappointing,” with sales, gross margin and SG&A coming in well below her forecasts.

She noted that J.C. Penney “has brought back promotions and will be running one sale event per week this year based on their learnings. In addition, the company is proceeding with the rollout of close to 20 home shops and a Joe Fresh shop this spring. Once these shops are in place, approximately 30% of the square footage of a transformed store will be in the shop format, and we believe this could serve as a catalyst to help the company return to growth.”

She noted, however, that in the latest quarter she expected three cents in earnings per share and that an analyst consensus was for an 18 cent loss. Both figures are considerably better than the $1.95 per share adjusted loss.

“Sales and customer traffic were below our expectations in 2012,” said Ron Johnson, J.C. Penney CEO, “but as we execute our ambitious transformation plan, we are pleased with the great strides we made to improve J.C. Penney’s cost structure, technology platforms and the overall customer experience. We have accomplished so much in the last 12 months. We believe the bold actions taken in 2012 will materially improve the company’s long-term growth and profitability.”  

Johnson added, “Looking ahead, we are energized by our shop rollout plans for 2013 and the exciting work our teams are undertaking to transform the store. Combining a new marketing campaign focused on style and value, incredible new brands and updated merchandise, with continued enhancements to the customer experience both in our stores and on jcp.com, we are working towards reconnecting with our core customer while attracting new customers to J.C. Penney.”