J. C. Penney Company, Inc. reported that comparable department store sales decreased 5.5 percent for the five weeks ended March 29, 2003. The best performing merchandise categories were Fine Jewelry, Juniors, and Missy Casual Sportswear. Sales were negatively impacted by economic conditions and the geopolitical environment.

Catalog sales decreased 13.1 percent. Internet sales, which are included in catalog, continue to perform well, and increased 19 percent.

Sales for the first nine weeks of the quarter have been below plan, and while April is an important month that should benefit from the Easter shift, sales for the first quarter are expected to be lower than originally anticipated. However, the retail environment continues to be challenging and as a result, management now expects first quarter earnings per share in the range of $0.18 to $0.23 compared to the $0.29 earned in last year’s first quarter.