Shares of J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) gained more than 15% on Tuesday, their second straight day of double-digit gains. But unlike on Monday, when the entire retail sector seemed to get a substantial lift, J.C. Penney was more of an outlier on Tuesday. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF was up by just 2%.
J.C. Penney did announce a new strategy to try to bring customers through the door that could have helped spark enthusiasm, but the broader push higher seems to be fueled by contrarian investors sensing the beleaguered retailer is oversold.
J.C. Penney said it plans to launch an outdoor shop within its men's department, devoting about 800 square feet of space within about 600 stores and featuring brands including St. John's Bay Outdoor, American Threads, and Hi-Tec. The outdoor shop will also get a dedicated section on the company's website.
The store-within-a-store trend is growing in retail, with Disney and Target, for example, announcing a collaboration that will put a dedicated Disney section into at least 25 Target locations beginning in October. The idea is that instead of a retailer being thought of as simply a generalist, it can be a destination for a specific consumer audience, hopefully driving traffic to the store that will then end up spending in other departments as well.
"As America spends more time outdoors, JCPenney is launching an entirely new outdoor category for men that delivers what he wants and what aligns with his lifestyle," J.C. Penney chief merchant Michelle Wlazlo said in a statement. "With this expansion, JCPenney is taking part in the nearly $900 billion outdoor recreation industry by offering functional, durable apparel."
J.C. Penney's two-day move is impressive, but it requires context. Even after the jump, the shares have lost nearly 90% of their value over the last three years, and a new outdoor shop is not going to fix all of the woes that have left the company teetering.
But with the market currently reassessing its infatuation with tech stocks, it does appear that at least some investors have decided to take a second look at J.C. Penney instead of declaring it doomed. It's far too soon to put J.C. Penney on a list of top retail stocks, but perhaps it's too soon to write it off completely, too.