Former J. C. Penney outlet stores to close

NEW YORK (AP) -- The new owner of J.C. Penney's former outlet store business announced Tuesday that it will close all 15 locations amid a steep drop in sales. The move will mean the loss of 1,400 jobs.

The outlet stores, which are in 14 states, were purchased in October 2011 by SB Acquisitions from J.C. Penney and rebranded JC's 5 Star Outlet.

"Going out of business" sales will start Wednesday, offering shoppers deeper discounts than the usual outlet prices of 25 percent to 75 percent off retail.

In a statement, Glen Gammons, the former head of the J.C. Penney Outlet store division, and CEO of JC's 5 Star Outlet, said closing the outlets was a painful decision.

"The closing of the outlets was necessitated by the precipitous decline of sales," Gammons said in a statement. "After exploring all the alternatives, we could no longer incur the losses resulting from the continued operation of the outlet stores."

The outlet stores trace their roots to the J.C. Penney Co.'s 1962 purchase of a Milwaukee, Wis., mail-order company, the General Merchandise Co. Penney realized the need for a process to sell overstocked and discontinued merchandise from its catalog and mail-order operations, and in 1963, opened its first new outlet store in Wauwatosa, Wis.

Before the acquisition by SB Acquisitions, Penney had designated them for closure.

Separately, J.C. Penney itself is trying to recover from a botched plan to transform its business by its former CEO Ron Johnson that led to disastrous results.

Johnson was ousted in April after only 17 months on the job and was replaced by Mike Ullman, who had been CEO from 2004 to late 2011.

Under Ullman, Penney is bringing back more frequent sales and basic merchandise eliminated by Johnson in a move to attract younger, more affluent shoppers. But the company is facing a rocky road as it heads into the crucial holiday shopping season.