J.C. Penney sees February sales flat

Retailer J.C. Penney Inc. said on Monday it expects February sales at its department stores open at least a year to be flat, although demand in the latest week was ahead of its expectations, Reuters reports.

The retailer said on a recorded sales update that fine jewelry, home furnishings and children’s merchandise were the best performing categories last week, which counts as the first week of its February reporting period.

Last year, J.C. Penney posted a much-stronger-than-expected 12.5% jump in February department store comparable sales, so the retailer said it would be difficult to top that high mark.

J.C. Penney, which runs its namesake department stores and the Eckerd drug store chain, said it expects February sales at its drug stores open at least a year to show a percentage increase in the low single digits.

At its catalog business, in the midst of a turnaround effort that includes 2,000 job cuts, sales are forecast to drop by 20% for the month.

J.C. Penney has been one of the strongest retail performers in recent months, boosted by aggressive discounts and heavy advertising. However, it has cautioned that January results were running below its forecasts for same-store sales to be little changed to up slightly, largely because it had little merchandise left to discount after a surprisingly strong holiday period.

The retailer is scheduled to release its January sales figures on Thursday morning, along with most other major U.S. retailers. January is traditionally a slow month for retailers, marked by sales to clear out remaining holiday merchandise and make room for incoming spring lines.