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PLANO, TX- J.C. Penney executives plan to open 50 stores this year, nearly double the 28 that the company opened in 2006. Seven of the units are planned for openings in the next two weeks, while the rest will debut by October.

The new stores, most of which will open on off-mall sites, is a continuation of the company’s expansion into open-air real estate. “Our off-mall format allows us to enter communities that may not have shopping malls, but where there is significant demand,” said Myron Ullman, J.C. Penney’s chairman and chief executive officer, during the retailer’s fourth-quarter conference call.

Of the company’s 1,033 units, 640 are currently in malls. The non-mall stores are in neighborhoods that get more weekday traffic, while the mall units get a majority of their business on weekends and other key shopping days, Ullman says.

During the company’s fourth quarter, same-store sales were up 2.2% year over year. For all of 2006, same-store sales rose 3.7%. Management predicts a low-single-digit increase for the current first quarter and the remainder of the 2007 fiscal year.

Net sales were nearly $6.7 billion for the quarter, an increase of 7.4% from the prior year. But net income fell to $477 million, from $551 million during the fourth quarter of 2005.

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