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JC Penney Stock Plunges 84% in 5 Years

Douglas A. McIntyre

How badly off is J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (JCP), at least in the eyes of Wall Street? Shares are down 84% in five years to just under $6. Over the same period, the S&P 500 is up 70% to 2,378.

J.C. Penney's stock price is an alternative way to pace its decline. Recently, analysis has focused on an implosion in same-store sales, revenue attrition, store closings and layoffs. J.C. Penney just announced a list of 138 stores it would soon close.

Unquestionably, the share price is driven by results. J.C. Penney revenue has fallen from $13 billion in 2013 to $12.6 billion in the 2017. The bottom line over the same period has been a disaster. The company lost $985 million in its fiscal 2013, $1.39 billion in 2014, $717 million in 2015 and $513 million in 2016. J.C. Penney has moved back near breakeven, but it has had to dismantle much of its operations to do so.

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Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) is often considered the villain in the J.C. Penney story. That is only partially true. The massive e-commerce company has taken business from most of the brick-and-mortar retail industry. However, J.C. Penney has been accused of operating stores that have not been updated, poor pricing policies and a lack of aggression online. Unlike Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), J.C. Penney has not made any major acquisitions to prop up its e-commerce traffic.

As the company announced the list of 138 stores it is about to close, Marvin R. Ellison, chairman and chief executive officer of J.C. Penney, said:

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We believe the relevance of our brick and mortar portfolio will be driven by the implementation of these initiatives consistently to a larger percent of our stores. Therefore, our decision to close stores will allow us to raise the overall brand standard of the Company and allocate capital more efficiently.

"Brand standard" and capital allocation won't help if people have abandoned J.C. Penney permanently, and there is plenty of evidence that is the case.

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