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Penney reiterates sales trends are improving, shares up

Customers ride the escalator at a J.C. Penney store in New York August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Customers ride the escalator at a J.C. Penney store in New York August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Olivia Oran

NEW YORK (Reuters) - J.C. Penney Co Inc told investors for the third time in less than five weeks that sales trends are improving and reaffirmed its forecast calling for positive comparable-store sales results coming out of the third quarter.

The U.S. retailer, which has been seeking to quell fears its turnaround is faltering, had earlier reported a smaller decline in same-store sales for September than for August.

The latest comments were made by Penney Chief Executive Officer Myron Ullman at the Women's Wear Daily conference on Monday.

Shares in the department store chain were up more than 8 percent, to $7.34 in early afternoon trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Penney has been struggling to revive sales after a failed experiment in 2012 to go upmarket alienated long-time shoppers and depleted its cash reserves. It incurred huge losses and spent large amounts of money on store remodels.

It lost a net 10 million households in customers during the failed attempt by former CEO Ron Johnson to transform the century-old department store chain, Ullman estimated.

Last week, Imperial Capital analyst Mary Ross-Gilbert slashed her price target on Penney shares to $1, citing concern the retailer "may engage in financial restructuring" in 2014.

But Ullman insisted things were getting better.

"I told lenders it would be one thing if we had two things wrong and they couldn't be fixed. We have 30 things wrong and they can all be fixed," Ullman said on Monday.

Ullman also stressed that the morale among employees "is better than it probably should be."

(Reporting By Olivia Oran; Writing by Dhanya Skariachan; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Leslie Gevirtz)

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