PLANO, TX-J. C. Penney Co. is still on track with its ambitious expansion program, which calls for 250 new stores over the next five years, most of them in open-air centers. This year the department-store chain has 50 new stores in the works.

Additionally, J. C. Penney will renovate 300 of its stores in the next half decade, including 65 during the coming 12 months. Capital expenditures for the 2007 fiscal year are forecast at $1.2 billion.

“We’ve had no difficulty working with developers to find off-mall locations,” said Myron Ullman III, chairman and chief executive officer, during the company’s first-quarter conference call. “We’re hitting our metrics on new stores.”

During the quarter ended May 5, year-over-year, same-store sales at its just more than 1,000 units rose 2.2% year over year, while total sales were up 3.1% and hit just under $4.4 billion. Operating income shot up 9.7%, reaching $419 million.

Ullman says there has been little change in consumers’ behavior despite high fuel prices and a strained housing market. “I think there’s plenty of opportunity to attract new customers.”

Executives are forecast a same-store sales increase during the coming quarter in the low-to-mid-single percentage points and a total sale rise of in the mid-to-high digits. The retailer is opening 15 stores during the quarter.

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