J. C. Penney announced on Tuesday that it plans to close three stores by the spring as part of an ongoing evaluation of its performance. The retailer didn't report which stores it planned to close, but said it's currently assessing locations that "may not meet required financial targets or represent a market opportunity to capitalize on a beneficial real estate asset." J.C. Penney said it will also provide more information when it reports fourth-quarter results on Feb. 28. The retailer also announced that for for the nine weeks ended Jan. 5, during the critical holiday shopping season, same-store sales fell 3.5 percent on a "shifted basis." On an "unshifted basis," sales were down 5.4 percent at stores open at least a year. J.C. Penney said it still expects to "generate positive free cash flow in fiscal 2018, reduce inventory in excess of $225 million or 8 percent, and expects to end the year with liquidity in excess of $2 billion."
Total Retail's Take: The news that J.C. Penney's holiday season underwhelmed isn't surprising, at least according to retail watchers. Two months ago, for example, J.C. Penney reported a sharp slowdown in sales for the third quarter of fiscal 2018, and there was an expectation that the trend could continue in the critical fourth quarter. Analysts are also predicting that more store closings will be announced by the retailer soon; anywhere from 20 locations to more than 100 could close, according to this CNBC.com article. Hopefully these measures are part of a turnaround story for J.C. Penney. It's seems to already be moving in that direction. After all, a new CEO, Jill Soltau, joined the company in October; the company is making some progress on its inventory issues (there have been reports of a backlog of merchandise companywide), according to analysts; and it will certainly benefit if (and when) Sears goes bankrupt.