A lot of ink has been spilled on this holiday season at the big department stores. The results are in and they are generally bad to awful.
I won't go into length about what J.C. Penney (JCP) making Q4 numbers for the first time in years means other than, it's not a bad thing and may be the beginning of something very good.
What I take away from the massive miss at Sears (SHLD) with high single digit negative comps and negative EBITDA projected for December is that it is game over. I do not believe that they can come back from this debacle and that the slow go asset strip/liquidation of the operating company to benefit the holding company is about to come to an end. If they can't make any EBITDA in Q4 when can they make money? I would be surprised if they could actually pull off the Land's End spin-off and think that the operating company will probably have to file bankruptcy in the next year or so. I don't know what can stop the bleeding - the massive investment needed to make the stores fresh again is probably not going to happen and wouldn't make much difference even if it did.
Macy's (M) on the other hand has what appears to be an okay (low single digit comp.) holiday, yet the stock is galloping on cost cuts and store closures that will goose future EPS.
JCP is hovering above multi-decade lows for the sin of making their guidance, yet not giving a December comp. They claimed to be "pleased" with the holiday, which I doubt means a mid single digit negative comp as some of the bears suggest. While this represents one of the worst IR efforts I have ever seen by a major corporation, it does represent stability, which is what shareholders need to see for the stock and the Company to work.
What does it mean? JCP is succeeding in the early stages of a multi-year turnaround. It is also about to have a shot at winning more than its fair share of SHLD's $37 billion in sales as their slow motion liquidation turns into a real time version. Macy's numbers tell you that this holiday was tough. JCP looks to have gotten at least their projected fair share with more to come at the expense of SHLD. It is worth noting that the bond prices are unchanged even though the stock is being swung around.
Additional disclosure: positions can and do change without warning or notice.