It goes without saying that amid current economic conditions, now is not the time for an experimental business model. Unless your Facebook or Twitter, I guess.
Tried and true, as well as slow and steady wins the race in life, and on Wall Street, and with the aforementioned in mind, JC Penney (JCP) is worth a review.
JC Penney Has Seen Recessions Come, and Go
Retailer JC Penney has made it through the rain called the Great Recession. The U.S.'s worst economic contraction since the Great Depression devastated many retail chains but Penney survived by adroitly focusing on its core businesses: cosmetics, jewelry, shoes, accessories and selected exclusive apparel brands.
JC Penney's shares traded Wednesday afternoon up 33 cents $33.63.
Further, JC Penny reduced or eliminated operations in just about every other non-core business lines -- a mission-critical tactic, given that middle-income U.S. consumers are still in frugal consumer mode. Pinched median incomes means that every dollar is watched -- and the day of casual shopping may be over, period, save for niche/luxury stores.
JC Penney's revamped merchandising and marketing strategy adds to the positive mix.
Meanwhile, good inventory management and expense controls have aided the bottom line. Modest new store expansion plans for FY2012 are also consistent with a business model that's survived amid the retail sector's rout. In FY2012, same store sales should increase 1.5-3.5 percent.
Further, JC Penney's recent deal with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO), under which Penney will build Stewart mini-stores in its stores, should provide a needed traffic boost.
Another encouraging point for investors: certain U.S. metropolitan areas remain ripe for the placement of a Penney store.
The Thomson Reuters First Call FY2012/FY2013 EPS estimates for JCP are $1.61 to $1.90, and each looks about 5% low, according to my analysis.
Technical Analysis: JC Penney's stock plunged this summer, from about $40 in May to about $23 by September, roughly in-sync with the U.S. economic slow-down. But there, support was found and the sock has since retaken the $30 level. A $38-40 price is likely by mid-2012. The holding of a test of the 50-day moving average, earlier this autumn, also is encouraging.
Stock Category: JC Penney is ideal for those investors seeking a moderate-risk, consumer-based retail stock, who won't be phased by 20 or 30 percent reduction in share price over one year. There's also a 10 percent chance you'll lose your entire investment with JCP over a 10-year period.
2012 Outlook: I view JCPenney as a long-term play, but if you're looking to sell JCP within the year, it's probably best to take your profits after it rises to $38-39, if it fails to rise above $40.
Stock Analysis: JCPenney is a moderate-risk stock. If an investor has already purchased the company's shares, I'd hold them. If not, I'd consider buying a 25 percent position in JCP now, and then another 25 percent in one month, if U.S economic conditions don't worsen substantially. Under any circumstances, I wouldn't buy more than 75 percent of my JCP position before March 2012. I'd put a sell/stop loss at: $18.
Disclosure: L.C. Jacobs of New York, N.Y. reviews stocks on a quarterly, semi-annual, and annual basis.
L.C. Jacobs has no positions in stocks reviewed, but does own federal, municipal, and corporate bonds.
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