NEW YORK -- J.C. Penney Co. cut its profit outlook for the rest of the year, a sign of jitters that Americans, still stinging from the recession and worried about jobs, aren't going to spend more any time soon.
The reduced outlook came Friday as Penney reported a second-quarter profit as it benefited from tight inventory controls and exclusive store-label brands.
Myron Ullman III, J.C. Penney's chairman and chief executive, told analysts during a conference call Friday that while earlier in the year retailers recognized they wouldn't be able to rely on the "consumer economy" to drive business, now he says it could be a "drag" given the slowdown and Penney's will have to work even harder to woo shoppers to buy in the final months of 2010.
Ullman said J.C. Penney's shoppers, who are primarily middle income, are bearing the biggest brunt of the economy's woes as they grapple with tight credit, job losses and a protracted housing slump. "Our customer tends to be more urban, more ethnic and more impacted by the economy than many others in the overall retail landscape," Ullman said.
With Penney a bit more concerned about consumer spending than earlier in the year when it ordered fall and holiday goods, Ullman said that the chain will look "very carefully" at revising inventory levels for the rest of the year, though he doesn't see any major issues yet.
Penney, based in Plano, Texas, earned $14 million, or 6 cents per share, in the three months ended July 31. That compares with a loss of $1 million, or break-even per share, in the same quarter last year.
The second-quarter 2010 results included a charge of about 5 cents per share related to a debt buyback completed in May.
Revenue was $3.94 billion, down 0.1 percent from a year ago. Revenue at stores open at least a year rose 0.9 percent compared with a year ago. The measure is a key indicator of a retailer's health because it includes sales at existing stores while excluding sales at newly opened locations.
Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected 5 cents per share on revenue of $4 billion.
After a surprise pickup in overall consumer spending earlier in the year, most retailers have seen a slowdown since April as the economic recovery is stalling and the job market remains stagnant.