J.C. Penney Q3 loss widens; encouraged by positive signs

Plano, Texas -- J.C. Penney posted a bigger-than-expected loss for its third quarter. But the struggling retailer pointed to hopeful signs that its business is starting to stabilize as its heads into the holiday season.

Penney reported a loss of $489 million in the three months ended Nov.2, compared with a loss of $123 million in the year ago period.

Sales fell 5.1% to $2.78 billion. Same-store sales were down 4.8%, but the period ended with its first monthly gain since December 2011. And online sales rose 24.5%, to $266 million.

“We are proud of the company’s October sales performance, encouraged by the early weeks of November,” Myron E. Ullman III, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement.

In a statement released Wednesday, Penney CEO Myron Ullman said that he is "encouraged" by sales in the early weeks of November, and the company believes it is “making strides” toward a path to long-term profitable growth

"Our strategies to reconnect with customers are beginning to take hold, and this became increasingly clear as the quarter progressed," Ullman stated.

In an encouraging sign, Penney said that gross profit margin improved to 29.5% in the quarter, compared with 32.5% last year.