J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) is in the midst of a recovery that seemed impossible two years ago. Part of the improvement is a surge in traffic to JCPenney.com, which rose 31% to 11.6 million unique visitors in March compared to the same month the year before, according to research firm Compete.
J.C. Penney earnings and same-store sales have stepped up in recent months, against a period during which revenue dropped nearly 20% in 2012. The dramatic drop in its fortunes shows up in annual revenue numbers. Fiscal year 2012 revenue was $17.3 billion. By fiscal 2014, revenue dropped to $11.9 billion. In the most recent fiscal, revenue reached $12.7 billion.
When J.C. Penney announced results for its most recent fiscal quarter, it disclosed that same-store sales compared to the same period the year before were up 4.5%. Management said: “For the fourth quarter, which included a successful holiday season, JCPenney reported net sales of $4.0 billion compared to $3.9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2014.” A rebound, albeit a small one.
The battle for retail market share has turned sharply online. Growth in visits to a retailer’s site may be more important than same-store sales. While J.C. Penney competes with retailers like the Sears division of Sears Holdings Corp. (NYSE: SHLD), brick-and-mortar fortunes have reached a permanent decline.
Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) is the primary enemy of all online retailers. One primary measure of its power is its 142 million unique visitors in March, which crushes the traffic to all other retail sites.
But, J.C. Penney’s online presence is on the move in the right director. Many other retailers are in retreat by the same measure.
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