J.C. Penney said Thursday it is delaying plans to shutter 138 stores amid a surge in shoppers making final visits.

"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 told CNBC. As a result, 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 said.

The influx of last-minute shoppers prompted the chain to postpone liquidation sales until May 22, instead of April 17, as originally planned. Store closures have been pushed back six weeks, to July 31, the company said.

Earlier this year, Penney announced plans to close 138 stores and focus on more profitable locations to save about $200 million a year. The company is drowning in $4.3 billion in long-term debt.

J.C. Penney, Sears and Macy's, are among the traditional department-store chains that are struggling when it comes to competing with Amazon and other online retail operations. All are being forced to close stores, revamp operations and look for new ways to survive as the retail industry transforms.