(Bloomberg) -- J.C. Penney Co. reported a challenging second quarter, exacerbating investors’ concerns about the health of department stores ahead of the holiday season. Still, its new chief is optimistic the turnaround is starting to take hold. “We are not simply running a business -- we are rebuilding a business,” Chief Executive Officer Jill Soltau said. Shares swung between gains and losses in early trading.

  • Same-store sales, a closely watched metric in retail, fell 9% in the latest quarter. That’s worse than analysts’ expectations for a drop of 5.3%, according to Consensus Metrix. It would have been a 6% drop excluding the impact of its decision earlier this year to stop selling some furniture and appliances in stores, it said.

Key Insights

  • The company, long lamenting its over-supply of product, trimmed its inventory by 12.5% in the quarter, it said. It also reduced its markdowns, which had been hurting sales. “While we still have work to do on our topline, I strongly believe that growing sales in an unprofitable way is simply not an option,” said Soltau. The company expects liquidity to be at least $1.5 billion for the remainder of the year, it said.
  • It’s trying some new tactics to re-ignite growth. J.C. Penney is wading into the resale market, announcing a tie-up with thredUP, an online consignment store. This comes a day after Macy’s Inc. announced a partnership with the same company.
  • But it could get tougher from here: J.C. Penney is among the retailers exposed to the U.S.-China trade war as the critical holiday season approaches. The retailer in June sent a letter to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative explaining how its core customers -- middle-class working women -- would bear the brunt of the proposed tariffs.
  • Investors looking for updated information on how the retailer is approaching the tariff situation may have to wait a little longer for the company’s call at 8:30 a.m. New York time.

Market Reaction

  • Shares initially fell as much as 3.5% in New York Thursday before rising as much as 14%. They had fallen 45% this year through Wednesday’s close

Get More

  • For more on the results, click here.
  • For company statement, click here.

--With assistance from Katherine Doherty.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jordyn Holman in New York at jholman19@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anne Riley Moffat at ariley17@bloomberg.net, Jonathan Roeder

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