J.C. Penney CEO buys 112,000 shares of company’s slumping stock before holiday shopping season

PLANO, Texas – J.C. Penney Mike Ullman seems confident the slumping retailer will bounce back during the holiday shopping season.

Ullman showed his faith by buying 112,000 shares at $8.95 apiece at the end of last week. The $1 million investment disclosed Monday comes as Ullman tries to snap Penney out of a funk that has seen the Plano, Texas, company lose more than $2.4 billion since late 2011.

The financial misery prompted Penny to fire Ron Johnson in April and bring back Ullman for a second stint as its CEO. Since his return, Ullman has been restoring more of the sales promotions that Johnson, a former executive at Target Inc. and Apple Inc., had eliminated.

The strategy has yielded some modest progress so far. In October, Penney reported that its monthly sales at its stores open for at least year — a key measure of a retailer’s health — had risen by 0.9 per cent, the first year-over-year increase since December 2011.

That still wasn’t enough to spare J.C. Penney Co. from a loss of $489 million in its most recent quarter ending Nov. 2.

Penny’s woes have caused the company’s stock to plunge by 53 per cent so far this year. The shares closed with a gain of almost 4 per cent to $9.19 Monday, up from a 52-week low of $6.24 reached last month.

Things are so bad that the retailer is being booted from the S&P 500 index after the stock market closes Friday.