Time for J.C. Penney and Best Buy to Release Holiday Results

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Some of the news about holiday sales at deeply troubled retailers Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) and J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) has been better than expected. But the two companies need to immediately release sales results for the period from November 1 through Christmas. It is time to tell investors whether to have any hope about the two companies, or if 2013 will be an even greater struggle for them than 2012 was.

The most recent positive information for the two companies comes from research firm Experian Marketing Services. The data come from the 68 top search engines and Web portals in the United States, according to Experian.

The numbers show that J.C. Penney had the fifth most-visited retail e-commerce site for the 12 weeks that ended on Christmas. Best Buy sat in fourth place. As almost anyone would expect, Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) and Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) occupied the top three spots.

Visits do not translate into sales, as many researchers have pointed out. That is another reason J.C. Penney and Best Buy should disclose their revenue for both online and in-store traffic. Apparently, a number of shoppers visit both J.C. Penney and Best Buy stores and websites, and then go to Amazon to find better prices. Stockholders in the two companies deserve to know whether the Herculean efforts of the firms to sell visitors goods and services before they moved on to Amazon actually worked.

Investors have shown at least some confidence that J.C. Penney had more than modest holiday sales. Its shares are up 12% over the past month. Best Buy’s stock has dropped 10% in the same period, and its shares have been left for dead. However, without solid data, either share price movement could be entirely wrong. It would take only top line revenue and same-store sales to settle the matter.

J.C. Penney and Best Buy have their holiday sales numbers. All either does by waiting to release the information is to increase the impression that one or both did poorly. Good news travels fast.

Douglas A. McIntyre

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