There is good news and bad news when it comes to the future of J.C. Penney. The good news is that online sales for the store, J.C. Penney Co Inc (JCP) rose 26.3 percent over the holiday season/quarter. The bad news is that these numbers still don’t take J.C. Penney back to its former top position as an early e-commerce pioneer.
J.C. Penney was one of the first major big-business retailers to start offering e-commerce. They began their online business in 1995 while maintaining a large catalog business until 2011. By that year, the company had reached $1.52 billion in online sales. Unfortunately, those sales fell by a third in 2012. As this was happening, online sales for Kohl’s Corp (KSS) and Macy’s Inc (M) had huge gains. Some point to J.C. Penney’s loss as management missteps under ex-CEO Ron Johnson (especially his disastrous “fair and square” pricing strategy) and too little investment in website technology.
J.C. Penney’s online sales improved when Chief Executive Myron Ullman returned to the company. Despite the positive changes he has made, there is still a lot of work to be done to catch up to competitors. Penney plans to close 33 stores in May of this year and improve online sales by investing in jcp.com.
They plan to improve the website by bringing back popular items that sold online like home goods, men’s big and tall clothing, and baby furniture. Additionally, the company hired Michael Rodgers, the former Saks Inc Chief Information Officer to better integrate stores and e-commerce as well as establish an online costumer loyalty program. J.C. Penney will need a large spike in online sales to catch up to competitors and reclaim their position as e-commerce pioneers. If they are able to do so, it will be all the more impressive for having overcome challenges introduced by prior management.