J.C. Penney Delays Plan to Close Stores After Sales Pick Up

  • Chain will shutter locations about a month later than expected
  • Improved sales may be due to ‘nostalgia,’ spokeswoman says

J.C. Penney Co., aiming to capitalize on a pickup in sales, will delay its plan to close roughly 140 stores -- but only by about a month.

Liquidation sales for most of the doomed stores will begin on May 22, later than its original target of mid-April, said Daphne Avila, a spokeswoman for J.C. Penney. The stores will now be shuttered on July 31, compared an earlier goal of mid-June.

J.C. Penney announced its intention to scale back its store fleet in February, echoing similar plans by Macy’s Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp. The Plano, Texas-based company said at the time it would take a charge of about $225 million related to the moves in the first half of this year. The cutbacks, which also include shutting two distribution centers, are meant to save about $200 million a year.

The 138 stores targeted for closure are mostly in rural areas, and a handful of them may stay open until later in the year, Avila said on Thursday. CNBC previously reported on the delay.

“Since we announced the stores that were closing, those stores have seen better-than-expected sales and traffic,” she said. “This is not an unusual response when you announce store closings. Customers will come out to shop -- whether it’s for nostalgia or they’re looking for a great deal.”

But the uptick isn’t enough to make J.C. Penney change its plans altogether.

“Usually it’s a temporary phenomenon,” Avila said. “It’s not something that would make us reconsider closing the stores.”

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