Penney unveils aggressive expansion plan

J.C. Penney Co. executives said Wednesday that the department-store chain will open 50 new stores per year, its most aggressive expansion in more than two decades, The Associated Press reports.

Chief Financial Officer Robert B. Cavanaugh reportedly said sales at stores open at least a year will rise by low single digits, during a meeting with analysts at the company’s Plano headquarters.

After opening 14 stores in 2004 and 18 last year, Penney plans to add 27 stores this year and double that pace between 2007 and 2009. Up to 90 percent of the new stores will be outside of shopping malls, Michael Dastugue, a Penney’s real estate vice president, reportedly said.

The company plans at least four new stores apiece in Houston, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, Minneapolis, and Chicago.

Cavanaugh reportedly said that the creation of new stores along with higher online sales will result in a per share earnings growth of 16 percent per year.

Dastague reportedly said Penney would also renovate 250 of its 1,000-plus stores in the next four years. The new stores will help push Penney’s capital spending from $535 million last year to $800 million this year and about $1 billion in future years, officials reportedly said.

Penney is also trying to attract younger shoppers with a newer, more hip image. For example, the company announced last week that it will open upscale Sephora cosmetics stores inside its own department stores beginning this fall.