JC Penney posts smaller loss under CEO Soltau, shares rise

(Reuters) - J.C. Penney Co Inc ( JCP.N ) on Friday reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss as it sold more diamond jewelry and denim clothing, results Chief Executive Jill Soltau said showed efforts to revive sales and profits at the department store are taking hold.

Such efforts are a part of Soltau’s turnaround strategy, aimed at reassuring investors it can lure shoppers back into stores amid fierce competition from online giants like Inc ( AMZN.O ) and discount retailers like TJX Cos Inc’s ( TJX.N ) Marshalls and T.J. Maxx chains.

Rivals, including Macy’s ( M.N ) and Nordstrom Inc ( JWN.N ), are also looking to woo shoppers with cafes, donut shops, fine-dining restaurants and full bars with Instagrammable views.

Earlier this year, Soltau chose to stop selling major appliances and limit furniture offerings and has worked to reduce inventory, lower ad spend and close underperforming outlets.

Chief Financial Officer Bill Wafford on an earnings call highlighted the success of Penney’s higher-margin fine jewelry category, footwear, and men’s and women’s apparel, with denim including Levi’s ( LEVI.N ) selling well.

“The company still needs to show a path of sustained profitability, comparable store sales momentum and gross margin improvement to gain investor confidence,” said CFRA analyst Camilla Yanushevsky.

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