The first quarter was a challenging one for J.C. Penney as the company reported decreases in total sales and comparable store sales for the period ended May 4.
Net sales were $2.4 billion, a 5.6% decrease from the comparable quarter the prior year. Net loss was $153 million, or $0.48 per diluted share, compared with a net loss of $78 million, or $0.25 per diluted share, in the first quarter of 2018.
Comparable store sales in the quarter were down 5.5%. Company officials said the exit of the major appliance and in-store furniture categories in the quarter had a negative impact on comparable store sales.
While the department store retailer continues to struggle, its CEO Jill Soltau said she is pleased with the strides the company has made on several fronts.
“We have made good progress on each of our immediate action steps, including our continued efforts to reduce and enhance our inventory position, which resulted in a 16% reduction in our inventory and meaningful improvement in our free cash flow this quarter,” she said.
Soltau said J.C. Penney’s current efforts are focused around two paths. She noted the company is continuing to map out a comprehensive long-term strategy, which will be shared in the coming months.
In addition, Soltau said the company is also working to build a “talented and accomplished team of retail experts.”
As J.C. Penney builds its team, the retailer named Shawn Gensch evp/chief customer officer, effective June 3. Reporting to Soltau, he will be responsible for driving customer-centric strategies to grow traffic, engagement and customer retention.
Gensch joins J.C. Penney from Sprouts Farmers Market where he served as chief customer officer. He also served as CEO of iAMroyalist and spent 10 years at Target where he served in various roles including svp/marketing.