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Penney adds doors

PLANO, Texas — JCPenney will open about 15 new stores this year, the first net gain in units in the past three years.

About half of these will be freestanding, off-the-mall units that Penney began testing last year. "The three test units have been successful," said Allen Questrom, JCPenney's chairman and CEO during a conference call earlier this week to discuss the sale of its Eckerd drugstore operations.

Late last year, Penney opened three freestanding test stores: Cedar Hill, Texas, Coon Rapids, Minn. and Plainfield, Ind. A fourth unit was opened in Maple Grove, Minn. in March.

But Questrom is more than bullish about the company's mall-based stores. "We've had three years of sales growth in the malls," he emphasized. "Malls are the key places to go to shop and socialize."

Overall, he said, "We continue to give value to customers. And we've expended a lot of effort in the Internet" with success.

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