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JCP analysts meeting: Raises 1Q outlook, home stabilizing

Penney unveils store kiosk prototype for home department

New York – JCPenney concluded its analysts meeting here this morning by announcing it expects first-quarter earnings per share to come in flat to slightly positive.

 Initially, the retailer had projected an ESP loss of 20 to 30 cents. That was revised to a loss of 5 to 10 cents when Penney released its March sales results earlier this month.

“Our inventory is now aligned with our projected sales month to month,” said chairman and ceo Mike Ullman. “I’d say what we’re seeing today is a more predictable plan. It’s not one we like, but it’s one we planned.”

 Home has stabilized, according to Ken Hicks, president and chief merchandising officer. “I wouldn’t say at this point the home business is healthy and ready to go out and run a marathon,” he cautioned. But execs noted that with fewer competitors left in the home furnishings arena, JCP is poised to capture market share, particularly once the economy improves.

 The company also is charging ahead with digital marketing and merchandising efforts. Following the meeting, JCP demonstrated the new Find More interactive flat-screen panel that it will begin testing in home departments by mid-May. If a shopper wants to locate an item not stocked in the store – purple towels, for example – she can search the kiosk and print out a receipt with the appropriate bar code. The receipt will be scanned when she checks out and the merchandise shipped to her home. Alternatively, she can select items and send an e-mail to herself for review later.

 “This is not dot-com in the store. If someone wanted to do dot-com they’d stay at home,” Tom Nealon, evp and chief information officer.

 Find More will test initially in four Dallas stores before testing elsewhere. “It will eventually run on your hand-held phone,” he said.

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