WILLMAR, Minn. — J.C. Penney Company Inc. announced Thursday, June 4, the first step in its “store optimization strategy,” and identified the first phase of 154 store closures. Closings include Willmar, Coon Rapids, Eden Prairie and Maple Grove in Minnesota, Brookings, South Dakota, and Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. No North Dakota locations were on this initial closing list.

The company filed for bankruptcy last month.

The company said in a news release that it evaluated its retail footprint and undertook a careful analysis of store performance and future strategic fit. The company said it intends to reduce its store footprint and focus resources on its strongest stores and powerful eCommerce flagship store, jcp.com.

“While closing stores is always an extremely difficult decision, our store optimization strategy is vital to ensuring we emerge from both Chapter 11 and the COVID-19 pandemic as a stronger retailer with greater financial flexibility to allow us to continue serving our loyal customers for decades to come,” said Jill Soltau, chief executive officer of J.C. Penney, in the release.

Store closing sales will begin at the locations following entry of an order at the June 11 hearing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Additional phases of store closing sales will begin in the coming weeks, the company said in the news release.

Store closing sales for the first round of store closures are expected to take 10-16 weeks to complete.