J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP ) announced yesterday that President Michael Francis is stepping down. In the immortal words of Scooby-Doo, "Ruh-roh!"
While I'm bullish on the stock (it's a CAPScall) Francis' sudden departure does not bode well for the near term. His leaving leads me to believe that management is seeing sales continue to be ceded to Macy's (NYSE: M ) and Kohl's (NYSE: KSS ) . Macy's stores within close proximity to a J.C. Penney have outperformed other locations, and even though Kohl's 12-month performance is uninspiring, it has still outpaced Penney's.
This quarter's same-store sales results could be even worse (year-over-year) than last quarter's. This possibility seems even more probable given Fool Sean Williams' observation that the winter and early spring were unusually warm this year (boosting last quarter's year-over-year results).
If this is the case, the stock will likely plummet even further, making a cheap stock even cheaper. This is why, if you don't already own shares, I'd recommend waiting until after the next conference call. If the news is good the stock will jump, but much of the uncertainty will be off the table. If the news is bad you'll be able to buy at a vastly better price.
To those of you who already own the stock -- and own it for the right reasons -- I would not panic. In his report to shareholders on June 12, Bill Ackman confirmed that he thinks the stock is "extremely cheap at current prices and that it offers one of the best potential opportunities we have seen for long-term profit when compared with the risk of a permanent decline in value from today's share price."
Given that his hedge fund, which is partnering with Vornado (NYSE: VNO ) , is the largest owner of the company and has access to superior information that smaller shareholders don't get (thanks to a board seat), that's an endorsement worth considering.
If you're not sold on this retailer, there are other incredible opportunities out there. The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012 is an emerging-market opportunity that Wall Street hasn't caught on to yet. You can learn more about our chief investment officer's top pick.