Jewelry Sales Score in Tough Quarter for J.C. Penney

J.C. Penney said that jewelry was one of the top performers in its latest quarter—but otherwise it didn’t have much other good news to share.

The department store singled out fine jewelry, along with women’s and men’s apparel, as top-performing categories for the third quarter of fiscal 2018 (ended Nov. 3). Overall, though, the company announced mostly downbeat results, with comps for the quarter sinking 5.4 percent and the company posting a $151 million net loss.

Total net sales for the quarter decreased 5.8 percent to $2.65 billion, compared to $2.82 billion the prior year. The weak performance caused the company to withdraw its previous full-year guidance. It now predicts it will end the year with a single-digit drop in comps.

CEO Jill Soltau, who took over the storied retailer one month ago, said in a statement that she was encouraged by the sales of jewelry and other key departments. But she warned that making the company profitable would be a “lengthy process.”

“We are making progress and taking the necessary steps to right-size our inventory positions to better support the brands and categories that are demonstrating profitable sales growth,” said Soltau, who came to the company from craft retailer JoAnn. “My commitment is that we will make sound, strategic decisions backed by data and will always be rooted in delivering on our customers’ wants and expectations. We will act swiftly but thoughtfully as we move the business forward.”

A company statement noted that it ended the quarter with liquidity in excess of $1.9 billion.

Analysts hope Soltau will bring stability to the retailer, which has had a rough time since former CEO Marvin Ellison announced in May that he was decamping to hardware chain Lowe’s.

In October, the retailer’s chief financial officer Jeffrey Davis also resigned, to join Qurate Retail Group, parent company of QVC, HSN, and Zulily. Penney recently hired Michael Fung as Davis’ interim replacement.

(Image courtesy of J.C. Penney)

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