J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (JCP), Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD), Groupon Inc (GRPN): Who Wins?

Page 1 of 2

J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) is at an uncertain time in its history, with many resigned to the fact that the retailer is simply a leftover remnant of a bygone era. The return of retired CEO Myron (Mike) Ullman as interim chief brought new hope to the company, undoing the damage done by Ron Johnson’s attempt to give the company a younger image. For awhile, it looked hopeful, thanks to the return of the discounts customers love.

J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP)

But in its first earnings report since the switch, the company showed no signs of recovery. J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP)’s first quarter brought a $348 million loss, up from a $163 million loss in 2012’s first quarter. Revenue was down 16.4%, while comparable-store sales were down 16.6%.

Now activist investor Bill Ackman is calling for J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP)’s CEO to resign along with board chairman Thomas Engibous. Part of the problem, in Ackman’s opinion, is Ullman’s behavior, which Ackman believes is more like a permanent CEO than an interim CEO.

But the biggest problem for J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) is its failure to improve. The company blamed its disappointing first quarter on ongoing improvements to its home departments throughout its chain, but the retailer faces steep competition. That brings the question — can a CEO replacement single-handedly repair J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP)’s problems?

Sears fails to improve

Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD) is also coping with losses under a new CEO. In its most-recent quarter, the company reported a 3.6% drop in sales for stores open more than a year. The company lost $279 million in the quarter, with revenue falling 9% from the previous year.

When Eddie Lampert took over as CEO in January, it was understood that the CEO faced a challenge. As parent of fledgling department store chain K-Mart, Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD) was in bankruptcy when Lampert bought it. To look at the bigger picture, Sears’ revenue dropped from $53 billion in 2006 to only $39.9 billion in 2012.

To turn this around, Lampert is counting on technology, with the company’s online visitors totaling 18 million in July. But 97% of the company’s sales come from its bricks-and-mortar locations, leading to doubt as to whether or not the company’s online sales can really make a difference.

Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) succeeds

On the other hand, Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) has emerged from the rubble, reporting a 7% increase in revenue for its first quarter. At one point last year, the company’s stock dropped 90%, leading many to wonder if the 50%-off model was a lost cause. But then shares surged higher when news broke that the company was placing interim CEO Eric Lefkofsky in the position on a permanent basis.

Page 1 of 2