J.C. Penney’s Comps Fall, but Jewelry Does Well

In its latest quarter, J.C. Penney saw both sales and profits fall, although fine jewelry delivered “strong sales results.”

Fine jewelry outperformed most other categories this quarter, along with home, women’s accessories, and handbags, executives said on an earnings call following the release of its latest financial results.

Overall comps for the first quarter (ended May 4) dropped 5.5 percent. The company also posted a $154 million loss, compared to a $78 million loss the prior year. Total net sales decreased 5.6 percent to $2.44 billion, compared to $2.58 billion the prior year.

On the earnings call, chief executive officer Jill Soltau said that the department store needed to reconnect with consumers.

“We must put the customer at the center of what we do, addressing their needs and providing superior value to them,” she said.

“Our strategy long-term will be a great balance between the fundamentals of retail…as well as transformational and innovative choices,” she continued. “There are no silver bullets in this business, there’s no get-rich-quick schemes, and we have to ensure that the choices we make are correct.”

The company also announced it has appointed Shawn Gensch (pictured) as its new chief customer officer.

In his new role, Gensch will oversee the department store’s marketing, research, and promotions and events. He was previously chief customer officer at Sprouts Farmers Market; cofounder and CEO of iAMroyalist, a customer loyalty platform; and former vice president of marketing at Target Corp.

“[Gensch will] be very focused on personalization and engagement and reconnecting with the customer,” said Soltau on the earnings call. “This is a true chief customer officer, he will be the individual next to me that just always keeps the customer at the center of everything we do.

Soltau, the former president and CEO of fabric and craft retailer JoAnn, took over the company last October.

(Image courtesy of J.C. Penney)

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