2 floundering retail giants
JC Penney and Walgreen seem to have lost their way, to the benefit of their competitors.
And then again, sometimes you can win by doing nothing, doing nothing but going against flailing and faltering competitors who seem to be flummoxed and floundering in unfathomable ways. Or, to put it another way, you can be lucky enough to compete against J.C. Penney (JCP) and Walgreen (WAG).
On Monday night, J.C. Penney announced the departure of Michael Francis, a key executive who had been brought over from Target to help Ron Johnson turn around J.C. Penney. Francis was part of the dream team that Johnson, late of Apple, put together to reinvent Penney in a fresh, imaginative way and wean its customers off the "high initial markup and then coupon down" strategy that had been Penney's modus operandi.
Johnson is already, I believe, way over his head in this attempted turnaround, one that racked up horrendous comparable-store sales (down 18%) in the most recent tally, and now he intends to take over the merchandising as well as the overall running of the stores.
Frankly, J.C. Penney, while it is still early on under the reins of Johnson, seems to have totally lost its way. Some of it may be because Johnson seems barely engaged. He has yet to move to Penney's Plano, Texas, headquarters. Some of it might be because the company has no raison d'etre. And some of it might be because the store's longtime customers can't understand or fathom what the heck is happening.
The result? There are billions in sales up for grabs, and those sales are going to Target (TGT), to Macy's (M) and to Wal-Mart (WMT). Penney is the gift that keeps on giving, not just to the short sellers but to this troika of very lucky competitors.
As for Walgreen, ever since it declared war on Express Scripts (ESRX), formerly its pharmacy benefit manager, it seems to be all downhill for this gigantic drugstore chain. Customers have been fleeing to competitor CVS Caremark (CVS), as demonstrated by the 9.9% decline in comparable pharmacy sales that Walgreen announced Wednesday.
Walgreen, rather than trying to stem the defections, announced Tuesday that it has taken a 45% stake in Alliance Boots, a gigantic drugstore chain based in the U.K., for $6.7 billion. To which I say, what the heck? Is spending a fortune buying a portion of a global chain of drugstores the way to reverse the defections to CVS? I don't think so.
Retail is a tough business. Going from domestic -- which is, frankly, one of the things I liked about Walgreen -- to international at a time when international could pull down the strongest U.S. company, doesn't make a lot of sense to me, especially when you pay a price per earnings that is much higher than the acquirer trades at.
Going in a host of directions at once, as Penney is trying to do, doesn't make a lot of sense either. Maybe Walgreen and J.C. Penney can pull off these aggressive growth plans. But in the meantime, I say they are terrific reasons to buy their competitors, as their failures and footfalls play right into the hands of the stores right next door to their own operations.
Jim Cramer is a co-founder of TheStreet and contributes daily market commentary to the financial news network's sites. Follow his trades for Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust and is long CVS
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Kind of makes you want to fly out of Vegas on an Airbus jet.
don't forget.....with oil at 105 and gas at 3+ he predicted oil at 150 and gas at 5
oil now low 80's and gas less than 3 in some areas.........is he that wrong or was it a pump and dump
oil stocks?......you be the judge......idiot or scam man?
One cannot make such a radical change as JCP has done and not expect the reaction that it sees now... Ms customer wants to see that sales sign, that certain % off and that $10 purchase credit that she can use... It's the nature of doing business in this country. No one believes the sign in the store that states the item is on sale... show me!! My wife when she receives that Kohl's letter with the % discount... especially the 30%... she and her friends and my daughters cant wait to go shopping... Is JCP doing same? NO!!
I worked for JCP and it's not the same company I remember... they do not treat their associates the same as former associates... for us old timers, we loved working at JCP, when times were hard, they did not lay off... they had a pension plan, all that is gone...
Bringing outsiders who have no clue about the retail business should have no business leading such a great company. Get rid of the top!! Start fresh and bring some of the old timers back so that they can turn JCP around.
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