The verdict is clear -- people just aren't shopping at J.C. Penney
The market reacted quickly as shares plummeted 20% during intraday trading, the biggest fall since July 1980. So what exactly triggered the downfall?
J.C. Penney's sales fell by 20.1%, as it struggled to cope with a staggering 18.9% decline in same-store sales, an important financial metric for retailers. This led to Penney's posting a loss of $0.25 per share. To make matters worse, the retailer also announced that it would discontinue its $0.20 per share quarterly dividend. Do we need any more reasons? I think not.
The arrival of Apple's former retail chief, Ron Johnson, to Penney's initiated a transformation at the struggling retailer. His appointment was met with much optimism as he was expected to bring in some of the Apple-esque retail magic to Penney's stores. But now, it's evident that investors are not impressed.
One of Johnson's first moves was doing away with Penney's old slash-and-burn pricing strategy, replacing it with a three-tiered pricing system which involved everyday low prices, sales on select products every month, and clearance sales on the first and third Fridays of every month. It seems shoppers haven't been able to adjust to this new strategy too well.
Not only has the strategy backfired, it's actually benefited rival retailers who've managed to woo away a sizable section of shoppers. In fact, peer Macy's
But give Johnson a break, guys. Transformation isn't easy. He's trying to change the business model of the company; he's done away with the retailer's outlet business and undertaken a huge store transformation plan, among other things. And as we all know, the old approach was clearly hurting the retailer more than anything else.
I was very excited by Penney's new store concept, even though I had warned that reinventing was going to be a risky strategy. If you ask me, this store is not for the masses and is possibly meant to target mid- to upscale clients. My assumption is based on the fact that stores are designed to resemble mini towns, housing a wide array of brands ranging from Martha Stewart to Nanette Lepore.
I still find Penney's strategy exciting though and recommend playing it long on this stock. And now since the stock has fallen, down more than 23% this year, this may be a good time to get your hands on Penney's. Transformation isn't easy, like I've said, so Johnson needs time to work out his Apple magic.
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