JCPenney sales down 2.8% for 2011, looks ahead to new marketing plan

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JCPenney's total 2011 sales decreased 2.8% compared with fiscal 2010, but its new marketing strategy is showing positive signs, the company reported Feb. 24. JCPenney's Internet sales through remained flat at $1.5 billion for 2011, compared with the prior year.

The company reported an $87-million net loss for the fourth quarter, and a full-year net loss of $152 million, compared with the prior year.

Speaking on the earnings call to analysts, EVP and CFO Michael Dastugue attributed this decrease in part to JCPenney's discontinuation of its outlet and catalog services in January 2011, which he said impacted sales by $500 million.

During the earnings call, the company focused on the year ahead, emphasizing the progress it was seeing in the major marketing overhaul announced at the end of January, including a revamp of its logo, branding, pricing, and promotions.

While he acknowledged that February sales were trending below last year, CEO Ron Johnson said that “customers have responded well to our fashion apparel pricing.” He added that because the brands participating in the company's store-within-a-store strategy had outperformed the rest of JCPenney, the company planned to roll out additional shops later this year.

“[Just] as important as the early sales indicators, [is] empirical evidence about how the customer perceives our changes in pricing, promotion, and in-store presentation,” said Johnson, who said the company had seen a positive response in customer surveys about the store presentation, pricing, and signage.

JCPenney generated $480 million in fourth-quarter Web sales, a year-over-year decrease of 3.1%. Total revenue in Q4 2010 fell 4.9%, compared with Q4 2010, to $5.43 billion. For full-year 2011, comparable store sales increased 0.2% year-over-year.

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