Photographer: Saul Martinez/Bloomberg

J.C. Penney Scraps Chief Merchant Job in Bid to Be More Nimble

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  • CEO says ‘simplified structure’ will allow greater flexibility
  • Department-store chain seeks to reverse its declining sales

J.C. Penney Co., coming off a merchandise liquidation and a warning that it will post another loss in the third quarter, is shaking up the way it picks products.

The department-store operator said its chief merchant, John Tighe, will be leaving the company and his position will be eliminated. Three senior merchandising officials will now report directly to chairman and Chief Executive Officer Marvin Ellison, while other executives’ roles will be expanded. Tighe had been promoted to his role of overseeing merchandise in 2015.

“This simplified structure offers greater flexibility, which is critical to ensuring our assortment remains fresh and relevant, and compels more shoppers to choose J. C. Penney,” Ellison said in a statement.

Ellison, who took over as CEO in 2015, has been working to streamline operations and inventory as he tries to reverse sliding sales. J.C. Penney announced last week that it had to liquidate goods, weighing on quarterly results, as the retailer tries to shift to selling more services and bigger-ticket items rather than following fickle fashion trends. The company has also been closing underperforming stores in response to declining mall foot traffic.

The retailer’s shares tumbled the most in more than three decades on Oct. 27 after announcing the liquidation and a forecast for a third-quarter loss that was deeper than anticipated. The stock has continued to decline in every subsequent session since then, losing almost a quarter of its value over the last week.

J.C. Penney and its peers face a difficult landscape as shoppers turn away from malls and department stores in favor of online commerce. Department stores have reacted to dwindling demand by closing stores.

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