By JOSEPH PISANI | AP Retail Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — J.C. Penney said Thursday that it will start closing 154 of its stores next week in what it is calling the first phase of its efforts to shrink its footprint.

The Plano, Texas-based retailer said it could take about 10 to 16 weeks to complete the closures. A list of the stores closing was published on Penney’s website.

None of the stores across the Rio Grande Valley are scheduled to be closed in phase one.

Penney filed for bankruptcy protection last month, making it the biggest retailer to do since the coronavirus pandemic forced non-essential stores to be shut down temporarily. J.Crew and Neiman Marcus sought bankruptcy protection days before J.C. Penney. All three were laden with debt and had trouble connecting with shoppers, who are increasingly skipping the mall and shopping online.

As part of its bankruptcy reorganization, Penney said it planned to permanently close nearly a third of its 846 stores in the next two years. That would leave it with just over 600 locations.

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