Retail Resurrection As Old World Stores Show A Pulse

Large retailers have shown such poor results that even minor progress makes it appear they have a brighter future than the one predicted for the last year. Results from several companies, most notably Macy’s (NYSE: M) and J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP) represent a turnaround, albeit a dull one

J.C. Penney in particular showed some magic. It lowered expectations a few weeks ago and then beat them, a clever sleight of hand by management. Its stock rose 15% to $3.17. That is still down from a 52-week high of $10.74. Its results for the last quarter:

 J. C. Penney Company, Inc. announced financial results for its fiscal third quarter ended Oct. 28, 2017. Total net sales decreased (1.8) % to $2.81 billion in the third quarter compared to $2.86 billion in the same period last year, primarily the result of the 139 stores closed this year through the end of the third quarter. Comparable sales increased 1.7 % for the third quarter, resulting in a positive two-year stack of 0.9 %.

Penney still lost $128 million up from a loss of $67 million a year ago.

Macy’s shares were either dragged high by Penney, or investors saw something in them. The stock rallied 2.5% to $19.98 yesterday, still well short of its 52-week high of $45.41. It was the second day of a big increase in share price. Macy’s announced:

Sales in the third quarter of 2017 totaled $5.281 billion, a decrease of 6.1 percent, compared with sales of $5.626 billion in the third quarter of 2016. The year-over-year decline in total sales reflects, in part, the closure of stores previously announced by the company. Comparable sales on an owned basis were down 4.0 percent in the third quarter and down 3.6 percent on an owned plus licensed basis.

Macy’s made $36 million compared to a profit of $17 million in the same period a year ago. The same store sales continue to be very troubling, but not compared to results from Sears Holding which announced about its last quarter:

 Total comparable store sales declined 15.3% during the quarter. Kmart comparable store sales decreased 13.0%, while Sears comparable store sales declined 17.0%. Excluding the impact of the above items, comparable stores sales declined 13.6% during the quarter, with Kmart comparable store sales declining 10.7%, and Sears comparable store sales declining 15.6%.

Macy’s results were a relief by contrast.

Finally, Kohl’s (NYSE: KSS) shares also rallied, up 4,5% after earnings, to $43.04 compared to a 52-week high of $49,67. Revenue was flat at $4.3 billion Net income was $117 million compared to $146 million in the same period a year earlier

The odds remain that these companies will continue to close more store, but they will make it through one more holiday season without major restructures