Retailer JC Penney Co Inc on Tuesday posted a narrower second-quarter loss, boosted by rebounding department store sales and a turnaround in its catalogue/Internet business.

The Plano, Texas-based retailer posted a loss of 2 cents per share in the second quarter ended 26 July, compared with a loss of 5 cents per share a year earlier. The net loss in the latest period was less than $1 million, compared with a loss of about $6 million in the same period last year. Results were marred by a disappointing performance at its Eckerd drug store chain.

Allen Questrom, chairman and chief executive officer, said the department stores should continue to improve in the second half, beginning with the back-to-school selling season and helped by recent federal tax cuts.

Second quarter operating profit more than doubled to $51 million compared with $22 million last year.

Comparable department store sales increased 2.1 per cent and catalogue/Internet sales increased 3.9 per cent, representing the first quarterly sales gain in three years.

The retailer said sales benefited from improved print media, including a positive early customer response to the Fall/Winter Big Book. In addition, Internet sales continue to experience strong growth, increasing by more than 60 per cent during the quarter and 40 per cent year-to-date.

Looking ahead, the retailer expects third quarter earnings to be in the range of $0.25 to $0.30 per share, and the full year to be in the range of $1.25 to $1.35 per share.