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What's Ahead for Retail Stocks After the Holiday Sales Breakdown?

Chris Lau, Kapitall: As new holiday sales numbers come to light, investors might have a clearer picture of what's ahead for retail stocks.

Neither Best Buy (BBY) nor J.C. Penney (JCP) seems to be getting much of a break these days. Best Buy plunged after the company forecasted weaker sales and lower revenues in 2014.

[Read more on Retail from Kapitall: 7 Retail Stocks May Give You More Bang for Your Buck this Holiday Season]

And the solvency for J.C. Penney continues to worry investors. Its shares are down 64.1% over the last year, with no end to the fall in sight. Is there more downside ahead for the retail sector, or are Best Buy and J.C. Penney companies investors should avoid?

Performance

Best Buy dropped around 30% in a single day - on January 16 - after reporting weak sales.

The company blamed aggressive promotional activity for the shortfall. This month, price cutting will continue, suggesting the current quarter will be weak as well. In 2013 Best Buy first appeared to be a better choice for investors, compared to J.C. Penney.

For J.C. Penney, shares continued a downward fall that began in 2012.

Click on the interactive chart to view data over time.

Set for a turnaround?

Looking ahead, Best Buy said its goals are:

“(1) to more quickly and more deeply lower our cost structure; (2) to grow our online channel at an accelerated pace; (3) to continue to improve and innovate the multi-channel customer experience; (4) to enhance our marketing approach and effectiveness, particularly relating to personalization, targeting of customer segments and buying occasions; and (5) to reinvigorate and grow our Geek Squad services business. We will keep you updated on our progress on these initiatives throughout the year.”

Best Buy may be able to cut into losses by improving their online presence. However J.C. Penney has also been suffering a chronic decline in its business, ever since a failed attempt to makeover the brand's image. The retailer is closing 33 more under-performing stores.

Investors should watch the health of other retail stocks, like Target (TGT) and Kohl’s (KSS). If these firms close stores, it would suggest the pressure from online retailers is mounting. 

Turnaround possible for J.C. Penney?

Even though the market seems pretty negative on J.C. Penney, it is certainly still possible the firm could turn itself around. The company is returning to old strategies that worked by  bringing back sales commissions. This move would motivate the firm in focusing on products that consumers want most. Having a more motivated sales force could help boost sales in the longer run.

 

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