NEW YORK (AP) — J.C. Penney said a key sales figure rose in its first quarter, offering an encouraging sign for the beleaguered department store operator.
The company, which is based in Plano, Texas, said sales at stores open at least a year rose 6.2 percent in the period, marking the second straight quarterly gain. The figure, a key indicator of health for retailers, had tumbled 16.6 percent in the year-ago period.
Penney's stock surged more than 20 percent to $10.08 in aftermarket trading.
The company has been trying to recover from a botched transformation plan by former CEO Ron Jonson that resulted in massive losses and plunging sales. Johnson, the mastermind behind Apple's retail concept, was ousted in April of last year after 17 months on the job, and the board brought back former CEO Mike Ullman.
Ullman is trying to win back shoppers by restoring sales events and basic merchandise the company ditched under Johnson's tenure in a bid to attract affluent, younger consumers. The efforts have included the discontinuation of some brands like William Rast and Joe by Joseph Abboud that were brought in by Johnson but didn't resonate with Penney's middle-income shoppers.
Ullman is also revamping the home area, a key driver of customer traffic, after Johnson's plan to overhaul the section with too many trendy and pricy items didn't sit well with customers.
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