Time for JC Penney to say goodbye to CEO?
The beleaguered retailer posts yet another dismal quarterly earnings report.
J.C. Penney (JCP) CEO Ron Johnson continues to offer investors more spin than a dreidel at Hanukkah instead of actual results. His job is now clearly in jeopardy.
The iconic Plano, Tex., retailer Friday posted quarterly results that were even more dismal than Wall Street had feared. Its net loss narrowed to $123 million, or 56 cents a share, versus $143 million, or 67 cents, a year earlier. Total sales plunged an eye-popping 26.6% to $2.93 billion. Excluding one-time items, the loss was 93 cents a share. Wall Street had forecast a loss of 7 cents on revenue of $3.27 billion, according to Dow Jones. As earnings misses go, this one's huge.
"Today, JCP is really a tale of two companies," he said in a press release. "By far the largest part of our store is the old J.C. Penney, which continues to struggle and experience significant challenges as evidenced by our third quarter results. However, the new JCP, centered around the shop concept, is gaining traction with customers every day and is surpassing our own expectations in terms of sales productivity which continues to give us confidence in our long-term business model."
It's hard to see what he means. Same-store sales, a key retail metric, plunged 26.1% during the quarter, indicating that Johnson's store-in-a-store strategy, isn't gaining traction. His gimmicks, such as free kid's haircuts and family photographs, while interesting are not enough to convince these people to actually buy J.C. Penney merchandise.
Johnson has got plenty of self-confidence. Recently, he told Fortune, "We're going to create an entirely new retail model that's built for the next 100 years." Some in the retail world are still convinced that Johnson is a genius who needs more time to realize his vision.
"Call me crazy, but this man has a reputation for vision and a track record that prompted members of the J.C. Penney board to hire him in the first place," wrote David Selby, a former Sears (SHLD,) executive, in Ad Age. "They wanted disruption, and they got it -- but disruption is very, very messy and takes time."
While Selby has a point, his call for patience doesn't carry the same weight as Bill Ackman's. The head of Pershing Square Capital, which owns about an 18% stake in J.C. Penney -- far the retailer's largest shareholder -- earlier this year had argued that the retailer's future under Johnson was bright. Whether he still feels that way is not clear.
If Johnson fails to produce decent results during the holiday season -- and the odds are against him -- the board will be forced throw in the towel and fire him. J.C. Penney would then be forced to sell itself at a fire sale.
Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stock. Follow him on Twitter@jdberr
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I’ve been waiting for this my whole entire life! Burn baby Burn! Better cash out while you can, while there’s still something to be had! Every man for himself ships going down quick!
Sorry, but I miss the Big Book. That wonderful catalog that had everything in it and that I kept all year long. The new little catalogs look like plain hype. They do not propel me to buy ANYTHING. Make them look more real.
I love Penneys (can't call it jcp)! Keep the $10 coupons coming!
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