J.C. Penney announces it will close some stores

NEW YORK — J.C. Penney Co. plans to close some stores, outlets and call centers, finish closing its catalog business and add two opinionated shareholders, including activist investor William Ackman, to its board.

The department store chain said Monday that the moves are intended to boost profitability and keep pace with customers' increasing shift to online purchases.

J.C. Penney has been working to close the catalog business for some time, announcing in November 2009 that it would stop publishing its twice-yearly "big book" catalogs.

Chairman and CEO Myron E. Ullman III admitted during a conference call that the retailer's business started to shift heavily away from catalog to online about two years ago.

"We didn't give up on the catalog. The customer did," he said.

J.C. Penney started a review of its operations in August and Ullman said the company knew it wanted to make changes coming out of the recession.

The company had also faced potential pressure from Ackman's Pershing Square Management and Vornado Realty Trust. Both Ackman and Vornado Chairman Steven Roth are joining Penney's board.

Other changes include the closing of six underperforming stores, two call centers, 19 outlet stores and one furniture outlet. J.C. Penney did not disclose how many jobs would be lost.

The chain runs more than 1,100 department stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

The moves will add about 7 cents per share to Penney's 2012 earnings, the company said. The retailer, based in Plano, Texas, will take charges of about 8 cents a share in the fourth quarter and 5 cents per share in 2011 related to the actions.

J.C. Penney shares surged 7.4 percent, or $2.25, to $32.59 in midday trading. The stock has traded between $19.42 and $35.12 over the last year.

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