June 5 (UPI) -- JC Penney will permanently close 154 stores in 20 states this summer as part of its bankruptcy plan, the company said Thursday.
The longtime big-box retailer which had struggled in recent years blamed the coronavirus pandemic for its decision to file for bankruptcy protection.
"As part of our ongoing transformation, we will reduce our store footprint to better align our business with the current operating environment and drive sustainable, profitable growth, as we focus resources on our strongest stores and powerful eCommerce flagship store, jcp.com," the company said on its website.
JC Penney's chief executive officer Jill Soltau said in a statement the closure will eventually make the chain healthier financially as it emerges from roughly two months of being shut down because of coronavirus restrictions.
"While closing stores is always an extremely difficult decision, our store optimization strategy is vital to ensuring we emerge from both Chapter 11 and the COVID-19 pandemic as a stronger retailer with greater financial flexibility to allow us to continue serving our loyal customers for decades to come," Soltau said in a statement.
A list of stores that are closing is on the company's website.
When JC Penney filed for bankruptcy in Texas last month, it initially said it would close 242 stores, amounting to or about 29 percent of its 846 stores.
The closure announcement made its rounds while the retailer was in the middle of reopening stores temporarily closed because of the coronavirus. JC Penney said almost 500 of those stores had reopened as of Thursday due to states lifting COVID-19 restrictions.