J.C. PENNEY TURNS A PROFIT, MOVES AHEAD WITH PLANS TO CUT STORES

In Retail News, What's New by Christine Galasso

J.C. Penney Company announced that it finally turned a net profit last year for the first time since 2010, reaching its $1 billion target, but that is still not enough to keep over 100 stores open.

In an effort to curb costs and spending, the company is planning to close 130-140 underperforming brick-and-mortar locations and shut down two distribution facilities in Florida and California over the next few months. It also is set to offer 6,000 employees buyouts, a move the company acknowledges will be rough but will even out as it rehires full-time store employees to adjust to its new retail footprint.

“In 2016, we achieved our $1 billion EBITDA target and delivered a net profit for the first time since 2010; however, we believe we must take aggressive action to better align our retail operations for sustainable growth. During the year, it became evident the stores that could fully execute the Company’s growth initiatives of beauty, home refresh and special sizes generated significantly higher sales, and a more vibrant in-store shopping environment,” said Marvin R. Ellison, chairman and chief executive officer of JCPenney, in a statement. “We believe the relevance of our brick and mortar portfolio will be driven by the implementation of these initiatives consistently to a larger percent of our stores. Therefore, our decision to close stores will allow us to raise the overall brand standard of the Company and allocate capital more efficiently.”

The company believes these strategic decisions will help align the Company’s brick-and-mortar presence with its omnichannel network, thereby redirecting capital resources to invest in locations and initiatives that offer the greatest revenue potential. They specifically pointed to the advantage of having physical stores to compliment its online efforts.

“While many pure play e-commerce companies are experiencing dramatically increasing fulfillment costs, we are pleased with the double digit growth of jcpenney.com and how leveraging our brick and mortar locations is enabling us to offset the last-mile delivery cost. We believe the future winners in retail will be the companies that can create a frictionless interaction between stores and e-commerce, while leveraging physical locations to minimize the growing operational costs of delivery. In fact, in 2016 approximately 75% of all online orders touched a physical store. Even with a reduced store count, JCPenney is competitively positioned to deliver a differentiated department store model that meets the expectations of a digital world with an inspiring, tangible shopping environment,” Ellison added.

Additionally, Penney’s is offering impacted associates separation benefits, which includes assistance identifying other employment opportunities and outplacement services such as resume writing and interview preparation.

FINANCIAL IMPACT

The total store closures represent approximately 13 – 14 % of the Company’s current store portfolio, less than 5% of total annual sales, less than 2% of EBITDA and 0% of net income. The stores identified for closure either require significant capital to achieve the Company’s new brand standard or are minimally cash flow positive today relative to the Company’s overall consolidated average. Comparable sales performance for the closing stores was significantly below the remaining store base and these stores operate at a much higher expense rate given the lack of productivity. Once cycled, these closures are expected to be net income neutral.

The annual cost savings resulting from these strategic decisions, primarily occupancy, payroll, home office support, corporate administration and other store-related expenses, are estimated at approximately $200 million. During the first half of 2017, the Company expects to record an estimated pre-tax charge of approximately $225 million, primarily lease termination obligation expenses, non-cash asset impairments and transition costs, in connection with this initiative.

The Company plans to release a full list of planned closures in mid-March pending notification of all affected personnel. Nearly all impacted stores are expected to close in the second quarter of 2017.