Why JC Penney Short Interest Is Up by 8 Million Shares

Pessimism about brick-and-mortar retail likely caused an 8 million share short interest surge in J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) for the two-week period that ended on January 13. The retailer is considered among the most troubled in the industry.

The number of shares short in J.C. Penney totaled 79 million, which is a very high 24% of the float.

J.C. Penney’s shares trade at $6.38, a 52-week low, against a period high of $11.99. The retailer’s stock collapse is partly due to deep concern about the entire sector. Bad news about Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) and downgrades across most of J.C. Penney’s direct competitors have helped push shares lower.

J.C. Penney itself was recently hit with a downgrade. According to MarketWatch:

Credit Suisse turned bearish on the department store chain, citing expectations of limited sales growth amid store closures and stagnant apparel and accessories merchandising. Analyst Christian Buss cut his rating to underperform from neutral.

In an article in American Business Journal. CEO Marvin Ellison said:

For the record, I think that 1,014 stores for J.C. Penney is too many, because we haven’t made the necessary investments in our store fleet the way we should. It’s a simple question: If we have a location that I wouldn’t want my children to work at, or wouldn’t want my wife to shop at, then we’re going to invest capital and ask if it fits the brand standard.

Wall Street is betting against him and his plan, so he better get going.