Home Energizes J.C. Penney Q1 Progress

In its first quarter ended May, 2, one that got a lift from home goods-related operations, J.C. Penney Co. recorded a net loss of $167 million or, 55 cents per share, versus a loss of $352 million, or $1.15 a share, in the year-prior period. Comparable store sales gained 3.4% in the quarter year over year.

Net sales were $2.86 billion versus $2.8 billion in the 2014 first quarter. Operating income for the quarter improved 70% over last year’s period, the company asserted, coming in as a loss of $75 million.

The company stated that women’s apparel, men’s and home were the company’s top performing merchandise categories.

In a conference call, as transcribed by SeekingAlpha, Mike Ullman, J.C. Penney’s CEO, called home, a “bright spot,” with furniture a particularly strong segment.

He added, “The new home catalog we launched in March was well received and has helped us to reconnect with lapsed customers and accelerate growth in our online business. Based on the reaction to this first catalog, we plan to release a second home catalog this fall. We have lot of work to do in home but things are heading in the encouraging direction.”

Ullman said J.C. Penney has been working to improve its in-stock position and promotions in home products to keep its momentum moving forward.

Home product sales weren’t only strong in the stores but online as well. Beyond that, said Marvin Ellison, J.C. Penney president, e-commerce selling got a boost from an assortment expansion, back to pre-Ron Johnson levels, and additional capabilities, including ship-to-store.

Ellison pointed out, “An omnichannel customer shops 2.5 times more frequently in a year than a traditional brick-and-mortar customer.”

Sephora inside J.C. Penney, now available in 515 locations, also recorded a strong performance, the company added. All regions experienced sales growth when compared against last year’s quarter with the best performance in the western and central regions of the United States.