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The Wall Street Journal reports on how at JC Penney, “sales are falling, its stores are stuck in malls and the turnaround strategy keeps changing. Now, three months after the embattled retailer hired a new chief executive, a handful of senior positions remain vacant.”

In other words, creating the perception that JC Penney is facing the possibility of a Sears-style future - cuts in people, cuts in stores, and eventual bankruptcy and liquidation in a world no longer hospitable to its version of retailing.

An excerpt from the story:

“The Plano, Texas-based chain was once the go-to apparel retailer for middle-class families. It and Sears had once dominated American retailing but lost their customers, first to discounters like Walmart , then to fast-fashion retailers and off-price chains like T.J. Maxx. The shift to online shopping hastened their decline.

“A strengthening economy brought Penney’s problems into sharper focus. It scaled back discounts and private brands, and focused on appliances at the expense of apparel. At a time when consumers have been spending, Penney posted a 3.5% decline in holiday sales and said it would close more stores, following a string of weak results.”

In addition, right now, JC Penney doesn’t have “a chief merchant, chief customer officer and head of planning and allocation. Its principal accounting officer will leave March 31, and it is looking for a successor to its chief financial officer who left in October … Penney’s new CEO, Jill Soltau, joined the company late last year after Marvin Ellison left abruptly to take a new job running Lowe’s.

Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School, evaluates the company this way: ““Penney is a broken business. They are looking at a very problematic 2019. It’s the mistakes of the past coming home to roost.”
KC's View:
The story makes the point that JC Penney doesn’t have a Sears-level debt problem, so it has some breathing room … but what remains to be seen is whether it has any sort of vision, much less the bandwidth to implement it.