PLANO, TX-Expecting no pickup in the economy any time soon, J. C. Penney Co. has cut its planned store openings for 2008, executives said at the company’s first quarter conference call. Plans now call for 36 new stores this year, down from the 50 originally planned, said Ken Hicks, president and chief merchandising officer.

Plans call for 20 units to be renovated, down from the 65 renovations completed last year. “We don’t anticipate any significant change in consumer demand in the second quarter,” Hicks said. “While the stimulus package is a positive, its benefit will be short-lived.”

Nor will next year be better.

“In terms of 2009, we know we need to make decisions in the next 60 days. But it will be unlikely that [the number of new stores] will be as high as 36, given what we know today,” said Myron E. (Mike) Ullman III, chairman and CEO.

Net income for the quarter decreased 49.6 percent to $120 million. Total sales decreased 5.1%. Comparable store sales decreased 7.4%. J. C. Penney operates 1,074 department stores throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.