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I worry about JC Penney-Sears model: Retail pro

Tuesday, 27 Aug 2013 | 1:08 PM ET
A 'Penney' for your thoughts
Tuesday, 27 Aug 2013 | 7:21 AM ET
Marcus Lemonis, CNBC's "The Profit" host, explains why the market may not be big enough for J.C. Penney and Sears to compete in the same mall.

After the Bill Ackman blowup at J.C. Penney and another tough quarter at Sears, turnaround expert and entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis told CNBC on Tuesday he's "not sure the market can handle both of them."

In a "Squawk Box" interview, Lemonis offhandedly said he didn't "want to make any recommendations to Eddie Lampert," the chief executive of Sears and its largest shareholder. But Lampert "understands the consolidation play" of a possible Sears-J.C. Penney union.

"The demographic of the buyer at Sears and the demographic of the buyer at J.C. Penney look awfully similar," said Lemonis, the CEO of Camping World who applied his experience at car retailer AutoNation to shake up the recreational vehicle business.

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In addition to Penney-Sears store redundancies at many malls, other competitors have been doing a better job reaching the shopper typical of those struggling retailers, he contended. "When I look at the space, Macy's has come in, Target has come in, Wal-Mart has come in and taken a lot of that soft goods spread of that $19 to $29 clothing stuff."

Despite another disappointing quarter at Sears, Lemonis praised Lampert's retail acumen—pointing to the billionaire's previous investments in AutoNation and AutoZone. "He understands merchandising and inventory."

That's what sets Lampert apart from activist investor Bill Ackman, said Lemonis. "For a guy like Bill Ackman … surrounding himself with good leadership at the operations level who can lead his business and understand he's the money guy" is critical to success—neither of which happened under the hedge fund manager's watch at Penney.

(Read More: Ackman's Pershing Square sells entire JCP stake)

Ackman sells stake in JC Penney
Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman is selling all of his holdings in J.C. Penney, reports CNBC's Courtney Reagan. And Dana Telsey, Telsey Advisory Group CEO, explains why Ackman's move was "disruptive," and discusses whether Wall Street will give the retailer time to reverse course and show positive momentum.

The sale of Ackman's 18 percent stake in Penney marks the end of the three-year campaign of the Pershing Square boss to breathe new life into the troubled retailer, which included the failed attempt to harness some of the Apple Store mojo by hiring as Penney CEO the tech giant's retail head Ron Johnson.

Lemonis said he favors Warren Buffett's style of investing in companies over Ackman's approach. "Let's look at [Buffett's] Berkshire. [They] make great investments. They surround themselves with great people. They buy great companies because of the management team."

"Never any problems there," Lemonis stressed. "Big difference. Bigger checks."

—By CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere. Follow him on Twitter @Matt_SquawkCNBC. Watch @MarcusLemonis in action as he turns around struggling businesses in "The Profit," Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CNBC Prime.

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