February will be remembered as a "milestone month" in the history of ZCMI, said Richard H. Madsen, president and chief executive officer of the Salt Lake-based department store chain.

This month will mark the completion of what Madsen termed "the most ambitious 12-month expansion program in the 122-year history of ZCMI" as new ZCMI II fashion specialty stores open in Las Vegas and Mesa, Ariz.Madsen said that between February 1990 and February 1991, ZCMI has introduced seven new stores in three states with some 200,000 square feet of retail merchandising and office space.

The unprecedented 12-month expansion includes four ZCMI II stores in Arizona, a full-line ZCMI department store in St. George, and fashion specialty stores in Provo and Las Vegas - ZCMI's first entry into Nevada.

The expansion brings to 20 the number of ZCMI stores in the system - 13 in Utah, four in Arizona, two in Idaho and one in Nevada.

"ZCMI has been in the department store business for more than 122 years, and if experience has taught us anything, it's to be consistent during the hard times and embrace change when necessary," said Madsen. "Expansion is a necessary part of our future success. It's through our carefully planned growth that ZCMI will meet the demands of the next decade and beyond."

Ribbon-cutting ceremonies are scheduled Tuesday, Feb. 12, for the ZCMI II store at the Superstition Springs Mall in Mesa and Wednesday, Feb. 13, for the Charleston Commons store in Las Vegas.

Six of the stores opened in the past 12 months have been ZCMI II fashion specialty stores, a concept introduced in 1987. "The ZCMI II concept has been highly successful, both from a marketing standpoint and from the perspective of ZCMI customers," said Bruce Larson, director of ZCMI II stores.

ZCMI - Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institute - became America's first department store on Oct. 16, 1868, when Brigham Young proposed a cooperative plan to supply pioneer communities in Utah with clothing, food and hardware "at the most reasonable rate possible."

The original store was remodeled and expanded into the ZCMI Center in downtown Salt Lake City.