July 13, 2017 / 1:00 PM / in 11 days

J.C. Penney pushes into toy sales in move away from apparel

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FILE PHOTO - Customers ride the escalator at a J.C. Penney store in New York August 14, 2013.Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) - Department store operator J.C. Penney Co Inc (JCP.N) said it was opening toy shops in all its stores and was planning to have a bigger assortment of toys available in time for the holiday season, as it seeks new avenues of growth amid weak sales.

The retailer also said on Thursday it had doubled its online assortment of toys over the last year.

Penney — which has over 1,000 stores — will sell toys from brands including Mattel's (MAT.O) Fisher Price, Hasbro (HAS.O) and Playmobil, with some stores also featuring a play area.

The retailer has said it is looking to cut its dependence on apparel, which made up more than half its sales last year, as more shoppers buy online and from fast-fashion rivals such as Forever 21.

Penney reported a third straight fall in quarterly sales in May and said it expects the drop in apparel sales to be worse than the overall comparable store sales decline through the year.

The change in consumer shopping habits has also led rivals such as Macy's Inc (M.N) and Kohl's Corp (KSS.N) to report weak sales in recent quarters.

Penney started selling home appliances last year after a gap of more than 30 years and has said the category helped attract new customers.

The retailer this week said it was expecting second-quarter sales to significantly improve from the first quarter.

Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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