Lowe's Cos Inc said on Monday it is closing 20 of its U.S. stores, eliminating nearly 2,000 jobs, and the home improvement retailer now plans to open far fewer locations in the future, citing the need to improve its profitability.

Lowe's, which operates about 1,700 stores in the United States, said it closed 10 stores on Sunday and would close another 10 within a month. The expenses associated with the closing will come to 17 cents to 20 cents per share.

Some 1,950 workers will lose their jobs.

It also said it plans to open only 10 to 15 new North American stores per year starting in 2012, down from a previous goal of 30.

Chief Executive Robert Niblock said in a statement that the company has to make tough decisions to improve profitability.

Lowe's reduced its full-year sales and profit outlook in August as U.S. homeowners put off renovations.

Lowe's becomes the latest retailer to pare the number of stores it operates amid tepid consumer demand.

Gap Inc last week reaffirmed a plan announced in June to close 200 out of its 889 namesake U.S. stores while luxury retailer Saks Inc has closed seven of its department stores in the past two years and plans to eventually close a few more over time.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York, editing by Dave Zimmerman)