What: Shares of retailer J. C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) are getting crushed in Friday trading, down 13% as of this writing. This is a bit of a surprise, considering the company reported third quarter results before market open that came in better than analysts were expecting, and the company also reaffirmed its full-year guidance. 

So what: If you didn't notice, retail and consumer stocks are getting smashed today. Competitor Kohl's(NYSE:KSS) shares are down over 6%, roughly giving back gains that company's stock made on Nov. 12 after reporting a 1% jump in its same-store-sales results, after seeing a decline in the prior quarter. 

The company said it saw good traffic in the back to school shopping season, and that traffic was remaining steady heading into the pre-holiday shopping season, leading it -- like J. C. Penney -- to reaffirm its own guidance for the year. 

Now what? So back to J.C. Penney -- what gives? In short, it's timing as much as anything, as this earnings season has seen a number of big-box retailers report poor sales results and cut their guidance for the full-year, including the more upscale Macy's and Nordstrom. 

Factor in the Commerce Department reporting that retail and restaurant sales grew a paltry 0.1% in October, and an all-but guaranteed interest rate increase in December, and it's turned into a bit of a sell-fest today. 

Looking at the bigger picture, J.C. Penney management has continued to make steady (if slow) progress in righting the ship after more than a year of fumbling with multiple CEOs and no clear vision or direction forward. However, even with the improvements, it's not easy to paint a picture of market-beating results for the company, which will continue to face growing competition from online retail, which accounted for essentially all of the growth reported in October by the commerce department. 

Jason Hall has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Nordstrom. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.