Slumping J.C. Penney giving word ‘sale’ another chance

NEW YORK — J.C. Penney Co.’s new CEO told analysts Tuesday that the department store chain is resurrecting the word “sale” in promoting its monthlong events, the latest change intended to reverse a sharp drop in customer counts and sales.

Investors were spooked even more, driving shares down 4 percent Tuesday. That extended a decline seen since early February when analysts starting becoming bearish about the new pricing plan that went into effect at the start of that month.

Penney has been getting rid of hundreds of sales events from last year in favor of a three-tier pricing plan that offers everyday prices, which are 40 percent lower than a year ago; monthlong discounts on select items; and Best Fridays, which are clearance events.

But Penney, which is trying to wean shoppers off discounts and focus on merchandise, had been avoiding the use of the word “sale” to describe the monthlong events and instead had called them “monthlong values” in its marketing campaigns. That ended up confusing shoppers.

“So we’re moving away from the word ‘monthlong value’ because no one really understood … what we intend to do. It’s a sale,” CEO Ron Johnson told investors.


Wind power industry appeals for fast renewal of tax credits

ATLANTA — A stalled effort to renew federal tax credits for the wind power industry is making it hard to keep employees on the payroll and plan for expansion, a group of executives said Tuesday, but two high-profile Washington figures advised them not to expect help until after the November election.

The production tax credit, the primary cost-saving policy for the industry, expires at the end of the year and the executives said their companies are already feeling the effects.

“The issue is, the longer you wait, the more critical this tax becomes,” said Jan Blittersdorf, president of Vermont-based NRG Systems, a 25-year-old company that manufactures goods for the industry. “This is really serious. This is the first time in 30 years we’ve had to do layoffs, and once you start to dismantle this system it’s hard to put it back together.”

Blittersdorf echoed the fears of several panelists at the WINDPOWER 2012 Conference & Exhibition about job loss, not just within their own companies, but in the entire sector.

Executives say extending the tax credit would not only benefit suppliers and manufacturers, but also the estimated 30,000 people employed by the industry.


CBO looks into future, warns of overwhelming U.S. debt

WASHINGTON — The Congressional Budget Office is again warning that the government’s mounting debt problems threaten to swamp the economy unless policymakers move to arrest out-of-control deficits.

If existing tax and spending policies stay in place, the national debt would balloon to almost equal the size of the economy after a decade and would swell to twice the size of the economy in 25 years, the CBO says.

An alternative would be to have Bush-era tax cuts expire and let a wave of automatic spending cuts simultaneously hit the economy in January. That would cause a brief economic recession, but would have long-term benefits in shrinking the national debt when measured against the economy.