Updated from 8:00 AM.
J.C. Penney (JCP) shares fell 0.25% to $7.84 early Friday afternoon after the department store said its comparable-store sales declined 0.8% during the nine-week holiday period, hurt by weakness in women's apparel.
But the six-week period from Thanksgiving through the end of December was positive. Shares have recovered losses after being down more than 5% in pre-market trading today.
"The first three weeks of November proved to be challenging in stores, consistent with the trends in the broader retail industry. However, the business improved and overall comp sales for the six-week period from Thanksgiving week through the end of December were positive," CEO Marvin Ellison said in a statement.
During the holiday season, the retailer saw strength in appliances, outerwear, boots, toys, fine jewelry and Sephora makeup stores. It is also "encouraged" by strong performance in its e-commerce business, which had double-digit growth.
Ellison said J.C. Penney expects to deliver a fourth consecutive quarter of positive operating profit. The company also reaffirmed its full-year EBITDA target of $1 billion for fiscal 2016.
Over 31 million of the company's shares changed hands so far today compared to its average 30-day volume of about 18 million shares.
Jefferies analysts said J.C. Penney's holiday sales results were disappointing, but not surprising given soft top-line trends at Macy's and Kohl's.
"Following weak results from M and KSS, it's clear that dept. stores struggled this holiday season. We are cautious on this sector of retail given structural issues which offset near-term catalysts related store closures and real estate monetization," the analysts wrote in a note today. The results indicate that department stores were less of a priority for consumers this holiday season, they said.
Analysts were expecting J.C. Penney to deliver comparable-store sales growth of 3% during the fourth quarter, BMO Capital Markets noted. "As expected, appliances showed strength, but it looks like JCP fell victim to curbed mall traffic as did M and KSS," the firm's analysts said.