J.C. Penney Slows Growth

Fort Worth, Texas At an analyst meeting on Tuesday, J.C. Penney chairman and CEO Myron “Mike” Ullman announced the company would slow store openings, scaling back from the projected 50 new store openings in 2008 to a more conservative 36 openings.

The Associated Press reported that Ullman attributed the change in Penney’s growth strategy to the overall economic slump and uncertainty. A Reuters release quoted Ullman as saying, “I've been in the business 39 years. I don't think I've ever seen an environment that was as unpredictable as the current environment."

Ullman also told analysts that the chain plans to accelerate its merchandising innovation. Penney this week announced several new lines for teens, along with the launch of a new store brand of home furnishings and accessories called Linden Street.

Earlier this week, J.C. Penney reported same-store sales decreased 12.3% for the fives weeks ended April 5, compared to an 11.0% over the same period in 2007. Total sales also declined in March, falling 10.3%.

In the company’s prepared release, J.C. Penney reported that it expected the negative pattern to continue, predicting a “mid- to high single-digit decrease” in same-store sales for the four-week sales period that will end May 3. In 2007, April same-store sales fell 3.4% across the department store chain.