J.C. Penney shares are tumbling amid reports it’s struggling to avoid bankruptcy, nearly two weeks after its rival Sears was saved from liquidation.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, the embattled retailer continues to battle declining sales and executive vacancies as it desperately tries to hang on and avoid the same fate as Sears.
Earlier this month, the retailer announced plans to close three more stores by spring, on the heels of disappointing sales numbers during the critical holiday shopping season.
Then, a week later, the company announced a series of leadership changes, noting that searches are “well under way” for a new chief financial officer and chief merchant officer.
However, the retailer said the changes reflect the “strength and the depth” of its turnaround strategy, fending off rumors that a bankruptcy could be imminent.
Spokespersons for the retailers did not immediately return FOX Business’ request for comment on the report.
Marc Rudov, a branding adviser, added that the departure of Marvin Ellison -- the former CEO of J.C. Penney -- last May was extremely telling in regards to the retailer’s future.
“Managerially, he had checked out long before then: the stores had become dirty and unorganized, littered with merchandise on the floor. The sales ‘help’ were notably lost, overburdened and unhelpful. If a retail store is nothing more than a glorified warehouse, Amazon will destroy it, and rightfully so,” Rudov said.
Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School, told the Journal that Penneys is a “broken business” and that “they are looking at a very problematic 2019.”
“It’s the mistakes of the past coming home to roost,” he said.
What’s more, last week, Fitch Ratings Inc. downgraded the retailer’s debt one notch closer to junk and its shares, which previously soared as high as $80 during the recession, are now hovering slightly above $1.
Bob Phibbs, CEO of New York-based consultancy firm The Retail Doctor, told FOX Business that the biggest problem the retailer has is that it doesn’t “know who their customer is.”
“[It] hasn’t since Ron Johnson (the retailer’s former CEO) tried and failed to reinvent the brand. They need to own that their customers tend to live in rural areas. That means stopping their unsuccessful attempts to compete with hot brands with a big presence, such as Target,” Phibbs said.
He noted that Pennys needs to create a plan if it wants to survive -- if not, it will be in the same place that Sears was in not long ago.
“If J.C. Penney wants to avoid the same fate, they need to cut their store footprint and find their customer again.”