On Friday, the department store retailer reported earnings adjusted for one-time items of 39 cents a share, trouncing Wall Street forecasts for 23 cents a share. Total revenue came in at $4 billion, narrowly surpassing forecasts for $3.9 billion.
Shares spiked more than 10% in morning trading on Friday.
"We are very pleased with our performance for the fourth quarter and full year -- our focus on private brands, omni-channel and revenue per customer is clearly resonating as we continue to win market share in a competitive environment," said J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison in a statement. In a sea of bricks-and-mortar retailers -- from discounterWalmart (WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report to department storeMacy's (M) - Get Macy's Inc Report -- disappointing investors with their holiday results, J.C. Penney will go down as a bright spot. The company offered sharp prices on its well-known private label products such as St. John's Bay, and continued to see women flock to cosmetics shop Sephora.
TheStreet looks at three of the most important numbers from J.C. Penney's fourth quarter.
1. Same-store sales increase of 4.1%.
Despite being up against a tough year-ago comparison to when same-store sales gained 4.4%, J.C. Penney managed to post a solid 4.1% gain this time around. Putting up two consecutive years of same-store sales increases during the ultra-competitive holiday season implies that J.C. Penney's merchandising and promotional efforts are resonating with deal-hungry consumers.
As icing on the cake: J.C. Penney's nemesis Macy's posted a 4.3% same-store sales drop for the holiday season.
2. Adjusted EBITDA of $715 million.
Excluding one-time items, J.C. Penney's earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation (EBITDA) for the full year tallied $715 million, up from $280 million a year ago. The result may serve as a confidence booster for those on Wall Street concerned about J.C. Penney being able to generate profits as it invests in lower prices and upgrading its shopping environment.
The improvement in profits may be poised to continue this year.
"Building on the momentum of 2015, and the positive trends of the mid-tier U.S. customer, we now expect positive adjusted earnings in 2016, and EBITDA of $1 billion," said Ellison. J.C. Penney appears headed down a path of meeting an ambitious goal set out in 2014 of reaching $1.2 billion in EBITDA by 2017.
3. Inventory increase of 2.6% year over year.
The warmer-than-normal winter across the country wreaked havoc on sales of cold weather apparel and accessories at department stores. As a result, many retailers finished 2015 with high inventories and low sales -- an unsavory position that raises the prospect of profit-busting markdowns to clear out merchandise.
J.C Penney's inventory increased 2.6% year-over-year to cap off the year, trailing the 4.1% increase in same-store sales. The numbers suggest J.C. Penney has entered 2016 in a relatively good inventory position, and is ready to properly display full-price spring merchandise once the weather warms up.