Department-store operator J.C. Penney Co. said Thursday that January same-store sales fell 1.9 percent, a much smaller drop than analysts expected, as sales in the Northwest lifted revenue.
The company also raised its earnings guidance for the three months ended Feb. 2.
For the four-week period ended Feb. 2, J.C. Penney had predicted a decrease in same-store sales in the mid-single digits and analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected a 6.3 percent decline.
But the company said men's, women's and children's apparel emerged as the strongest selling product line, and sales in the Northwest produced the best regional results. Also, seasonal clearance, as well as a positive response to spring merchandise, boosted results.
Same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, is a key measure of retailer performance because it measures growth at existing stores rather than from newly-opened ones.
Total sales for the four-week period fell 17 percent to $1.16 billion from $1.39 billion during the same period last year, which included an extra week. Excluding the extra week, sales rose 2 percent.
In the fourth-quarter, which ended Feb. 2, same-store sales fell 3.6 percent while total sales fell 4 percent to $6.39 billion from $6.66 billion last year. Analysts expected sales of $6.38 billion.
For the fiscal year, same-store sales fell 1.1 percent and total sales were nearly flat at $19.86 billion, from $19.9 billion last year.
J.C. Penney said it now expects fourth-quarter guidance at the high end of a range between $1.65 per share and $1.80 per share, from previous guidance at the low end of that range. Analysts expect a profit of $1.65 per share.
Shares rose $3.08, or 7 percent, to $46.80 in midday trading, after closing Wednesday at $43.72.
(This version CORRECTS date in second graf from Dec. 31 to Feb. 2; UPDATES share price)