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Private brands drive up JCP comps in Q1

PLANO, Texas — JCPenney posted first-quarter net income and comparable-store sales growth thanks to strong growth in key categories and better management of expenses. 

JCPenney reported net income of $64 million or 28 cents per share for the first quarter ended April 30, including certain previously announced restructuring charges, compared with 60 million or 25 cents per share for the same period lat year.. According to JCPenney, comparable-store sales for the quarter grew 3.8% over last year driven by the company's exclusive and private brands such as Liz Claiborne, Worthington and St. John's Bay as well as ongoing growth of Sephora inside JCPenney, MNG by Mango, Call It Spring and the successful introduction of Modern Bride. Total sales increased 0.4%, reflecting the company's exit from its catalog business, JCPenney reported.

JCPenney said that overall, the strongest merchandise results for the company in the period were in women's apparel and accessories and children's apparel. Geographically, the best performance was in the Southwest region of the country.

"Our ability to deliver on our objectives in the first quarter reflects the progress we are making in executing the long range plan for growth we announced in April 2010," said Myron Ullman, III, chairman and CEO. "We are successfully implementing our merchandising initiatives, with strong gains in both our men's and women's apparel businesses. Additionally, the steps we have taken to manage our expenses position us to increase the flow-through of sales to the bottom line. We are accelerating this process through a series of initiatives across the company to maximize operational effectiveness. We expect these ongoing actions will result in substantial expense savings, beginning this year, and allow us to significantly accelerate profitability."

For the second quarter, JCPenney said it is expecting comparable-store sales to increase 3% to 4% and earnings per share in the range of 20 cents to 24 cents per share.

For the full year, earnings per share are now expected to be in the range of $2.15 to $2.25 per share.