NEW YORK (AP) -- The sudden departure of J.C. Penney's president suggests there are marketing changes ahead, but some industry watchers still see a turnaround for the struggling retailer.
Late Monday the company announced that Michael Francis, the former Target Corp. executive brought in to help redefine the brand, was leaving the company. J.C. Penney Co. gave no reason for the abrupt departure of its president, who had been on the job for a little more than eight months.
Shares fell 6 percent, or $1.42, in premarket trading.
As president, Francis was responsible for the marketing of a new pricing plan that aims to get rid of hundreds of sales events. He also oversaw merchandising and product development.
Baird's Erika Maschmeyer said CEO Ron Johnson — who is assuming Francis' marketing and merchandising responsibilities — wanted more direct control to execute plans.
The analyst reaffirmed a "Neutral" rating and lowered J.C. Penney's price target to $28 from $32 as she sees limited upside to the stock while the company works on getting shoppers to adapt to its new pricing strategy.
Deborah Weinswig of Citi Investment Research said that there were a lot of moving parts for Francis during his tenure and that "the company was struggling with its marketing program to clearly communicate the new pricing strategy to customers and drive traffic to the stores."
But the analyst said she believes that the company will fix these problems before the critical back-to-school shopping season and that J.C. Penney's plans to transform the business are still on track.
"The company's strong bench of talent gives us confidence in the execution of the turnaround," Weinswig said.
She maintained a "Buy" rating and $40 price target.