J.C. Penney is also putting the finishing touches on the reset of its home store - something that former CEO Ron Johnson took apart, rebuilt ... and killed.
"[In] just a few weeks, we will be completing new look our home store. This includes the extensive remerchandising the Home Department has been that underway [with a] renewed focus on bedding and bath, small electrics, as well as decorative accessories will offer the best value and home furnishings anywhere for the range of merchandise will better fit our customers' budget and their lifestyle," Ullman noted.
Lastly, digital offerings are a must and J.C. Penney is looking to "accelerate" its growth in the omnichannel experience.Earlier this month, J.C. Penney hired former Saks CIO Mike Rodgers to fill a newly created position of Senior Vice President of Omnichannel Strategy and Execution. Rodgers' task will be to integrate digital capabilities and marketing between stores in jcpenney.com, Ullman said. "Customer experience from marketing, to browsing to check-out has to be seamless across channels and that's what we are working toward." Finally, and most importantly, investors seemed to be relieved after last night's call, particularly because management inferred that a large capital raise is not in the cards in the near future, and frankly, neither is bankruptcy. Shares surged 24% to $7.37 at last check on Thursday. J.C. Penney said it plans to end 2014 fiscal year with $2 billion in liquidity, compared to 2013, when it ended with just over $2 billion in liquidity. CFO Ken Hannah said "we have visibility of positive free cash flow results under our existing strategy and we have access to the resources we need under our existing agreements to complete our turnaround," however management remained elusive on the timing of when for free cash flow. "We anticipate to complete the turnaround in 2014, and if we completed well, we would [see] free cash flow positive. I think it is too early to be very, very specific, but I think the liquidity guidance we gave you gives you the comfort that we are not burning cash in the process of finishing the turnaround," Hannah said on the call. Even Wells Fargo Securities analyst Paul Lejuez, who has been bearish on J.C. Penney since taking over coverage on the stock last May, upgraded shares to "market perform" from "underperform" on Thursday. "JCP's FQ4 was weak, but there was some good news. Investor fears of an imminent large capital raise or a change in corporate structure seems to be off the table in the near term," Lejuez writes in a note to clients. Lejuez raised his fiscal 2014 estimates to a loss of $3.17 from $4.37 and raised his valuation to between $6 and $7 from $4 to $5. Management took a "more confident tone, giving decent F14 guidance that featured comp and [gross margin] improvement. FQ4 expense savings seem permanent and are expected to flow through to F14," he writes. "In further discussions with [management], we learned there is no planned time frame to achieve [free cash flow] and the $400MM accordion feature is included in their range of ways they can achieve $2B in liquidity by year-end. While we can still argue that the stock may not present much value to equity holders, the company itself seems to be standing up better that many previously thought, which we believe warrants a Market Perform rating, as the stock is likely to move higher in the near term." --Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York. Follow @LKulikowski