Apr 20, 2010
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Penney CEO says consumers still under pressure

Apr 20, 2010

NEW YORK, April 20 (Reuters) - JC Penney Co Inc (JCP.N) Chief Executive Myron Ullman said the economic slowdown and high unemployment rates are still weighing on U.S. consumer spending, even though conditions are improving.

JC Penney
St John's Bay at J.C. Penney

"The midpoint consumer has a lot on her mind," Ullman, who is also a director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said on Tuesday 20 April at the department store operator's annual analyst day.

But he added: "All the economic indicators are going in the right direction."

Penney was one of the slowest U.S. department store chains to see improving sales at stores open at least a year, or same-store sales, following the recent slowdown.

Earlier this month, Penney said March same-store sales rose 5.4 percent, falling just short of analysts forecasts of 5.7 percent.

Those results prompted Penney to raise its profit outlook for the fiscal first quarter to between 20 cents and 24 cents per share, up from a previous range of 16 cents to 20 cents. It also forecast that same store sales would rise by 2 percent during the quarter.

JC Penney, which is ramping up deals such as store-in-stores with cosmetics retailer Sephora and fast-fashion retailer Mango, is emphasizing more stylish offerings to differentiate itself from rivals such as Macy's Inc, (M.N) with a focus on women's apparel.

So far this spring, sales of women's merchandise were "above plan," said Liz Sweney, an executive who oversees women's products.

Shares of Penney were down 1.5 percent at $30.99 in morning trading. (Reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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