By Michelle Graff
The fine jewelry department of the J.C. Penney store in Brooklyn, N.Y; the retailer reported another quarter of “improved performance” in Q2, with fine jewelry sales leading the way.
New York--J.C. Penney and Nordstrom reported modest gains in same-store sales in the second quarter while Macy’s saw its comps slip and Kohl’s came in flat.

Department store chains are facing the same problems as all retailers--consumers are spending more selectively and, when they do decide to part with their money, have more choices about where to do so. In this particular second quarter, there was Amazon’s first Prime Day sales event with which to contend.

This trend has the big chains pouring money into customer-facing services such as same-day delivery for online purchases, the option to pick up in-store and, to accommodate today’s deal-minded consumer, opening more off-price outlets. Macy’s, in fact, is launching an entire new chain of stores dedicated to discounted merchandise, Macy’s Backstage.

Highlights from J.C. Penney, Macy’s, Nordstrom and Kohl’s second quarter results, which came in last week, are below.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc.
Same-store sales increased 4 percent in the second quarter ended Aug. 1 with Fine Jewelry, which is headed by Pam Mortensen, named as one of the company’s top-performing merchandise divisions. The others were the Sephora shop-in-shops, Men’s and Home.

Net sales reached $2.88 billion, a 3 percent increase from the second quarter 2014. Gross margin rose slightly, from 36 to 37 percent of sales.

CEO Marvin Ellison said the fact that the retailer logged another quarter of improved performance was due to the “commitment and diligence of the J.C. Penney team.”

Macy’s Inc.
In a “disappointing” second quarter, same-store sales on an owned plus licensed basis were down 2 percent year-over-year. 

Total sales were down 3 percent, from $6.27 billion to $6.10 billion. Gross margin was down slightly, from 41.4 percent of net sales to 40.9 percent.

CEO and Chairman Terry J. Lundgren said the retailer was “disappointed” by its second quarter results.

The reasons named were the removal of a Friends & Family event from the Macy’s calendar in Q2; the West Coast port slowdown, which pushed planned markdowns into the second quarter to clear merchandise that arrived late; the strong U.S. dollar negatively impacting tourist spending; and “restrained” overall consumer demand.

In the fall, Macy’s plans to open a location in Ponce, Puerto Rico, a Bloomingdale’s in Honolulu, six Macy’s Backstage stores, one Bloomingdale’s Outlet and 10 Bluemercy stores. Bluemercury is a chain of beauty/spa stores Macy’s acquired in March.

The retailer will close a store in downtown Los Angeles to build a new store in the same mall.

Nordstrom Inc.
Nordstrom’s same-store sales were up 5 percent year-over-year in the second quarter ended Aug. 1. The company’s Anniversary Sale, its largest promotional event of the year, took place in the second quarter and met company expectations.

Total sales for Nordstrom increased 9 percent in the quarter, from $3.3 billion to $3.6 billion. Its entry into Canada, opening of and acquisition of Trunk Club, a personal shopping site for men, drove more than a third of sales growth.

Gross profit as a percentage of net sales remained unchanged at 35.4 percent.  

Nordstrom said in the third quarter, it plans to open full-line Nordstrom stores in Vancouver, British Columbia, Minneapolis and Milwaukee, relocate a store in Los Angeles and open 16 Nordstrom Rack stores.

Kohl’s Corp.
Both same-store and total sales were flat essentially in the second quarter ended Aug. 1.

Sales reached $4.27 billion compared with $4.24 billion in the second quarter 2014.  Gross margin was 38.9 percent, compared with 39 percent a year ago.

Chairman, CEO and President Kevin Mansell said second quarter sales fell short of expectations. He blamed the shortfall on the shift of back-to-school special sales events in tax-free states from July into August. 

Kohl’s ended the quarter with 1,164 stores in 49 states, up slightly from 1,160 stores a year ago.

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