JC Penney surges after the retailer reports a narrower-than-expected loss, but it still sees a steep sales decline

Key Points
  • J.C. Penney reports a narrower-than-expected loss for the third quarter.
  • Sales fall short of analysts' expectations, falling 10.1% from a year ago.
  • CEO Jill Soltau says the retailer has "made significant progress on our efforts to return JCPenney to sustainable, profitable growth."
Shoppers pass a J.C. Penney store in New York.
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

J.C. Penney reported a narrower-than-expected loss for its latest quarter, sending its shares higher Friday morning.

Its stock, which closed Thursday at $1.10, surged more than 22% at one point during premarket trading. It was up nearly 11% shortly before the opening bell.

Here's how Penney did for the quarter ended Nov. 2 compared with what analysts were expecting, based on Refinitiv data:

  • Earnings per share: a loss of 30 cents vs. a loss of 55 cents expected
  • Revenue: $2.38 billion vs. $2.51 billion expected
  • Adjusted same-store sales: down 6.6% vs. a drop of 7.7% expected

"The past quarter was an exciting and energizing time at JCPenney as we made significant progress on our efforts to return JCPenney to sustainable, profitable growth," CEO Jill Soltau said in a statement.

Penney's net loss for its fiscal third quarter narrowed to $93 million, or 29 cents per share, from $151 million, or 48 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding one-time charges, Penney lost 30 cents a share, better than an expected loss of 55 cents in a Refinitiv survey of analysts.

Sales fell 10.1% to $2.38 billion from $2.65 billion a year earlier, missing expectations for $2.51 billion.

The company said adjusted sales online and at Penney stores operating for at least 12 months were down 6.6%, better than an expected drop of 7.7%. The data excluded the impact of Penney exiting from major appliance and in-store furniture categories. Overall comparable sales were down 9.3%.

For the year, Penney is still calling for same-store sales to be down 7% to 8%. It says it now expects adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to be over $475 million. Previously, it was calling for $440 million to $475 million.

Penney's shares as of Thursday's market close are up about 5% this year, pushing the stock back above $1. The embattled department store chain, which has a market cap of about $349.6 million, had been in danger of being delisted from the NYSE.

Soltau has been trying new things in stores, like adding yoga studios and holding styling classes, to appeal to younger customers. It's also working with resale clothing company thredUP.

But Penney's rivals, like Macy's and Nordstrom, have also been refreshing stores and bringing in new brands, only amplifying the competition. Penney must also compete with Amazon's growing fashion business online.

The company said Friday it benefited during the quarter from lower marketing expenses and an increase in selling margins.

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