JCPenney CEO Ron Johnson is out of the company, according to CNBC, after just 17 months on the job.
His Q4 2012 was probably the worst quarterly performance ever in the history of major retail: same-store sales were down 32 percent, to $3.8 billion.
By late February, the stock was down 46 percent on the year. It jumped more than 10 percent today on the news of Johnson’s departure.
There are rumors of impending mass layoffs at the chain. (And with a sales decline like that, how could there not be layoffs?)
Johnson, the former retail boss at Apple, only became CEO of the department store chain in November 2011. But this week we learned retail insiders were taking bets on when he would leave, and private equity groups were plotting takeover strategies.
Here’s how it got so bad, so fast.
Johnson inherits a company that didn’t notice a looming cotton crisis.
The company did well in 2010 (increasing profit 36 percent over the year prior). But the cotton market wreaked havoc on the clothing industry in 2011. Flooding and other shortages caused cotton prices to hit an all-time high. Rather than staying conservative with expectations, J.C. Penny raised its earnings expectations at the beginning of the year, as if cotton prices weren’t an issue.
Nonetheless, by the end of Q4 2011, sales at JCP were still at $5.4 billion.
November 2011: Ron Johnson arrives and is warmly welcomed.