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Actionable news in JCP: J.C. PENNEY COMPANY Inc,

J.C. Penney's New Role Model: Home Depot

J.C. Penney's been collecting a lot of accolades lately. It expects to notch $1 billion in profits this year for the first time since 2012, while continuing to pay down billions in debt. And its stock has surged 50 percent so far this year, making it one of retail's top performers.

Not bad for a department store once left for dead, where phase one of a four-part turnaround plan was simply, "save the company," CEO Marvin Ellison noted when he outlined J.C. Penney's strategy during its analyst day earlier this month.

Ellison did a good job anchoring investor expectations, saying his overriding objective is not to return J.C. Penney to the $19 billion in annual revenue it made in 2007, when its stock traded at $87 a share. Rather, he intends to return the company to growth through sales-boosting initiatives in beauty products, appliances, and home goods. That will help it take share from some even worse-performing competitors, such as Sears and Macy's, says Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Poonam Goyal.

But the most telling thing to come out of J.C. Penney's day-long presentation was just how much Ellison's playbook mirrored that of his former employer, Home Depot.

Ellison lost out in a three-way race to become CEO at Home...