NEW YORK – In the latest sign of turbulent times at J.C. Penney Co., the midprice department store chain said President Michael Francis, the former Target Corp. executive brought in to help redefine the brand, is leaving the company.
In a terse statement issued late Monday, the department store operator gave no reason for the immediate departure of Francis, who joined the company last October. Shares fell nearly 6 percent in after-hours trading.
Ron Johnson, Penney’s new CEO and a former Apple Inc. executive who has been trying to transform the chain from a retail has-been to retail darling, will assume direct responsibility and oversight of the company’s marketing and merchandising functions.
The surprise move comes as the department store chain is scrambling to reverse a sharp drop in customer counts and sales after Johnson’s new pricing plan ended up turning off its customers, who are accustomed to seeing markdowns. The pricing plan, implemented Feb. 1, eliminated hundreds of sales events.