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J.C. Penney Nov. sales comparison off 5.9 percent

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J.C. Penney Co. Inc. on Thursday said sales at stores open at least a year fell 5.9 percent in November, worse than analyst estimates.

While results missed analysts’ target, it was within the range of the retailer’s expectations. Penney set its holiday shopping expectations above last year’s performance.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a decline of 4.4 percent. J.C. Penney had forecast a decline of 4 percent to 7 percent.

The figure is an important gauge of retail health, because it measures performance at existing stores, rather than newly opened ones.

Total sales for the four week period ending Nov. 28 dropped 5.2 percent to $1.72 billion.

J.C. Penney said Black Friday weekend sales — the weekend after Thanksgiving that marks the start of the holiday shopping season — were strong and offset weaker sales starting mid-month. Women’s apparel, accessories and shoes were among the best performing divisions, while children’s was the weakest.

So far this year, the company’s sales at stores open at least a year are down 7 percent, while total sales have fallen 5.6 percent to $13.73 billion.

J.C. Penney said it expects sales at stores open a year or more to fall 3 percent to 6 percent in December, compared with a drop of 8.1 percent last year.

© 2009 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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