SAN FRANCISCO -- Department store chain

Macy's

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says it will shutter nine of its underperforming stores, leaving about 900 employees potentially out of work.

"While the decision to close stores is difficult, it is necessary that we do so selectively in locations with declining sales and where we have been unable to identify sufficient growth opportunities," said Macy's Chief Executive Terry Lundgren, in a statement.

Displaced workers from the store closings will be offered positions at other nearby locations whenever possible, Macy's said. Those who are laid off will receive severance benefits and outplacement assistance.

Almost all of the stores planned for closure were built in the 1960s and 1970s, although two had opened as recently as 2003. The locations include three stores in Ohio, where the company is based, two stores in Texas, one store in Utah, one store in Louisiana, one store in Oklahoma and a store in Indiana.

Lundgren noted that Macy's is continuing to open new stores, including 10 this year in addition to a furniture gallery. Next year, it expects to open five stores, and in 2009, it will open six to eight.

The company operates more than 850 department stores, under the names Macy's and Bloomingdale's. In 2005, it acquired May Department Stores, converting them into the Macy's banner.

The chain is still in the process of convincing former May shoppers, who were used to store names like Filene's, Hecht's and Marshall Fields, to buy into the Macy's brand, although more and more of them are making the shift.

Shares of Macy's were recently up 26 cents, or 1%, to $25.30.