JC Penney on Friday joined other major US department stores in reporting gloomy sales figures for the first quarter of this year, sending its shares sliding for a second day.

The department store said its like-for-like sales, an important metric, were down 3.5 per cent in the first three months of this year, worse than the 0.7 per cent decline Wall Street forecast.

February was a “very challenging” month for the retailer, said Marvin Ellison, Penney’s chief executive. However, he said he was, “pleased with our comp store sales for the combined March and April period, which improved significantly versus February”.

Despite the upbeat sentiment from Mr Ellison, Penney’s shares dropped as much as 12.4 per cent in pre-market action, extending a fall of 7.4 per cent on Thursday.

The sales miss echoed weak results from Macy’s, Kohl’s, Dillard’s and JW Nordstrom, released on Thursday that have sparked concern that consumers’ shift away from traditional bricks-and-mortar retail may be accelerating.

Penney’s overall revenues ticked lower to $2.7bn, from $2.8bn in the same three-month period last year, also slightly shy of expectations. The net loss widened to $180m, from $68m, on the same basis.

Excluding one-time items, earnings per share of 6 cents were significantly better than the 21-cent loss Wall Street anticipated.

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