J.C. Penney Profit Fell 36% as Sales Decline

J.C. Penney said on Friday quarterly profit fell 36 percent and forecast earnings for the current quarter below Wall Street expectations, hurt by cutbacks in consumer spending.

The mid-tier department store operator, said net income fell to $117 million, or 52 cents per share, for its fiscal second quarter, ended August 2, from $182 million, or 81 cents per share, a year earlier.

JC Penney
JC Penney

Analysts on average had forecast earnings per share of 51 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

The Plano, Texas-based company expects third-quarter earnings of 70 cents to 75 cents per share, below the 76 cents per share average forecast issued by analysts.

Sales and profits have been battered in recent months as its middle-class shoppers tighten discretionary spending in favor of necessities, squeezed by rising fuel and food prices, declining home values and a credit crunch.

Last week Penney said July sales at stores open at least a year fell a deeper-than-expected 6.5 percent.

"In this difficult consumer environment, we have continued to focus on tightly controlling all aspects of our business," Penney Chief Executive Myron Ullman said in a statement.

The company has tried to protect margins through tighter inventory controls, and said comparable store inventory levels at the end of the second quarter were lower than a year ago.

For the quarter, total sales fell 2.5 percent, while same-store sales dropped 4.3 percent. Sales of women's apparel and shoes were stronger than other items on a relative basis, while sales of home goods and jewelry were the weakest.

Penney forecast a decrease in total sales for the third quarter in the low-single digit percentages, with same-store sales falling in the mid-single digit percentages.

Penney shares fell to $35.70 from its close of $36.83 on Thursday.