NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- J.C. Penney ( JCP) is the turnaround story in the department store sector. While the company lagged rivals Macy's ( M) and Kohl's ( KSS) throughout most of 2010, its exclusive brands and merchandising initiatives have put it on track to regain market share.
J.C. Penney's CEO Myron Ullman
J.C. Penney has benefited from its exclusive partnerships with Liz Claiborne ( LIZ), MNG by Mango and Call It Spring from Aldo, as well as the roll out of Sephora shops within stores. The company began seeing these benefits in the fourth quarter, when profit rose 35% to $271 million, or $1.09 a share, on revenue of $5.7 billion, a 2.8% increase from the year prior. J.C. Penney also touts major investors like William Ackman and Steven Roth on the board of directors. And at the helm is retail veteran Myron (Mike) Ullman III, who has navigated J.C. Penney amid the recession. But regardless of its recent ability to get it right, investors are still skeptical over managements 2011 forecast. The company is calling for a profit between $2 and $2.10 for the year, ahead of Wall Street's estimates of $2.04 a share. Of course, like all retailers, the company faces several potential headwinds. Ullman discussed with TheStreet how pressures like sourcing costs and higher gasoline prices will weigh on the company, and just how far we are in the retail recovery. TheStreet: Where are we in the retail recovery? Ullman: "It started in the middle of the fall where we noticed customers start to buy things for home entertaining. Thanksgiving weekend we were selling table linens and Pyrex -- things that weren't deemed essential nor are they necessarily gift-able items. This showed a somewhat different attitude about the holiday period."