October 2, 2018 / 8:39 PM / 3 months ago

J. C. Penney names retail veteran, Joann Stores chief as new CEO

Jill Soltau, then chief executive officer of Jo Ann Fabrics, listen during a meeting the Retail Industry Leaders Association and member company CEOs in the Rosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

(Reuters) - J. C. Penney Co Inc (JCP.N) on Tuesday hired Jill Soltau, former chief executive officer of privately held fabric and crafts retailer Joann Stores, to the top job, effective mid-October.

Shares of the company, which hit a record low last week when its chief financial officer quit, rose about 10 percent in after-market trading.

Soltau has served in senior level positions at Sears SHLD.O and Kohl’s (KSS.N) in a career spanning over 30 years, the company said in a statement.

The appointment comes five months after its former CEO Marvin Ellison left the company to join home improvement chain Lowe’s Cos Inc (LOW.N) and Soltau is tasked to resurrect J. C. Penney’s declining sales as shoppers increasingly move toward online shopping.

“The new CEO has an uphill battle to resurrect the brand ... hopefully, she will focus on merchandising to the core customer and addressing the sole problem at the company, which has been apparel,” Gordon Haskett analyst Chuck Grom said.

J.C Penney, which has seen its annual sales decline in the last three years, reported a bigger-than-expected second-quarter loss and cut its full-year profit forecast in August.

“If she can fix apparel, she will help stabilize the company’s profit margins, which have been under substantial pressure for the past few years,” Grom said.

Paul Brown, chairman of J. C. Penney’s search committee said Soltau’s turnaround work at prior companies as well as her experience in apparel and e-commerce made her an “ideal fit” for the company.

Reporting by Soundarya J in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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