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UPDATE 1-J.C. Penney set to hit record low as department store woes continue

(Adds details, shares)

May 12 (Reuters) - J.C. Penney Co Inc on Friday joined other department store chains in reporting a steeper-than-expected drop in same-store sales for the first quarter, sending the company's shares tumbling 12 percent to a record low in premarket trading.

Macy's Inc and Kohl's Corp on Thursday had also reported weak sales, underscoring the struggle by brick-and-mortar retailers to attract customers amid a slump in demand for apparel and the shift to shopping online.

J.C. Penney's net loss widened to $180 million, or 58 cents per share, in the quarter ended April 29, from $68 million, or 22 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned a profit of 6 cents per share, helped by higher selling margins and lower costs of marketing and incentive compensation.

Analysts on average were expecting a loss of 21 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales at stores open more than a year dropped 3.5 percent, steeper than the 0.7 percent decline, according to the average of analysts polled by research firm Consensus Metrix.

Net sales fell 3.7 percent to $2.71 billion, declining for the third straight quarter and marginally missing the average analyst estimate of $2.77 billion.

The company's shares were down about 12 percent at $4.65 premarket on Friday, set to hit a record low in regular trading. (Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)