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J.C. Penney Postpones Store Closures Amid 'Better-Than-Expected' Customer Traffic

JC Penney is postponing store closures and liquidation sales amid a flurry of shopping activity and better-than-expected traffic.
Customers ride the escalator at a J.C. Penney store in New York
J.C. Penney is shuttering up to 140 stores over the next few months, amid sagging sales and fierce competition from online retailers. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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Maybe it's the memories that are bringing shoppers out to the closing J.C. Penney stores.

No matter the reason, customers are showing up.

As a result, the retailer has postponed the liquidation sales and closure dates for the 138 stores it plans to shutter this year, the company told CNBC.

A shopper looks at items on sale at a JC Penney store during Black Friday sales in New York. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

"Ever since the company announced its store closure list, those stores have seen better-than-expected sales and traffic," J.C. Penney spokeswoman Daphne Avila said.

"This is not an uncommon response when you announce a store closure. Local shoppers will come out for a variety of reasons — some out of nostalgia and some who are just looking for a great deal."

It's "prudent to continue selling through our spring and summer merchandise at the current promotional levels and begin our liquidation sale a month later than originally planned," Avila continued.

The liquidation will now begin May 22 instead of April 17 as originally scheduled. The new closure date of July 31 is about six weeks later than J.C. Penney originally planned.

Penney's said earlier this year that it would close 138 stores in a bid to cut costs and focus on its most profitable locations. The company expects the closures to save it some $200 million a year, which will help it whittle down the $4.3 billion it has in long-term debt.

J.C. Penney is far from the only retailer closing down stores. Macy's and Sears are also turning off the lights in shopping centers across the they adjust to shoppers' changing tastes and the shift to online spending.

Still, Penney's CEO Marvin Ellison has remained adamant that physical stores matter. Not only do they offer shoppers a place to touch and feel items, but they serve as hubs for picking up, distributing and returning items.

"We believe the future winners in retail will be the companies that can create a frictionless interaction between stores and e-commerce," Ellison said in a statement announcing the company's closure plan in February.