Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Investors hammered shares of ailing retailer J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP) today, falling as much as 20% in intraday trading after the company released its first-quarter earnings report.

So what: Twitter positively lit up with tongue-in-cheek comments on Penney's quarter. Some of our own Fools chimed in:

  • Rick Munarriz: "The silver lining in J.C. Penney's awful report is that Sears has someone it can laugh at now."
  • Joe Magyer: "Watching JC Penney ($JCP) earnings event. They're doing an OK job of putting lipstick on a pig, but it's a really fat pig with gross lips."
  • Morgan Housel: "JCPenney attracted 6 paying customers last quarter; street was looking for 8."

But whether or not the Penney earnings release was funny to you -- probably not if you're a shareholder -- it wasn't pretty. Both earnings and revenue missed expectations for the quarter as the company posted a hefty $163 million loss. The ugly numbers were driven by a huge 19% drop in same-store sales, a sign that customers just aren't shopping at J.C. Penney.

Now what: To some extent, investors probably shouldn't be that surprised. J.C. Penney stores haven't been the hot place to shop for years, and former Apple retail head Ron Johnson was brought in to turn the company around, not help it continue coasting along the road to riches. Turnarounds, particularly in retail, are not easy and rarely pretty -- as we're seeing very clearly with Penney.

Can management grit its teeth and pull out a successful 180 in the years ahead? There will be plenty of ink spilled debating that question, but what's for sure is that the company has a steep hill to climb.

Want to keep up to date on J.C. Penney? Add it to your Watchlist.