LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - J.C. Penney Co Inc said on Wednesday its sales at department stores open at least a year fell 4 percent in August, but were better than expected thanks to strong sales of shoes and apparel during the critical back-to-school shopping season.
The company's shares rose 1.4 percent in extended trading following the announcement, in which the company also repeated its sales outlook for the next two months, despite what it called a "challenging macroeconomic environment."
Analysts, on average, were expecting the company's same-store sales to fall 5.2 percent, according to Reuters Estimates. J.C. Penney itself had forecast a decline in the mid- to high-single digits.
On a pre-recorded call, J.C. Penney said sales of five- pocket denim, babydoll blouses, hoodies and shorts were particularly strong during the period as consumers shopped for back-to-school items.
J.C. Penney's announcement came after Costco Wholesale Corp earlier on Wednesday reported weaker-than expected August sales due to lower gasoline prices, weak tobacco demand and a decline in store traffic.
Also on Wednesday, data firm SpendingPulse said U.S. retailers that sell clothes for the whole family performed fairly well in August due to sales of back-to-school items.
J.C. Penney, which is based in Plano, Texas, said total sales fell 1.1 percent to $1.56 billion in the four weeks ended September 1. Total direct sales rose 3.6 percent, while Internet sales rose 23.9 percent.
Looking ahead, J.C. Penney backed its sales forecasts for September and October. The retailer expects department store same-store sales to increase in the low-single digits in September and forecast a rise in department store same-store sales in the mid- to high-single digits for October.
J.C. Penney shares rose to $66.50 in after-hours trade after closing at $65.58 on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Reporting by Nichola Groom)