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Bradlees makes it official

BRAINTREE, MA -With two states seeking a federal court order to force Bradlees to honor gift certificates and rival discounter Ames announcing that it will accept returns of merchandise purchased at Bradlees, the troubled retailer is bringing its 42 years to a tumultuous close.

Bradlees last week filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and announced it would close its 105 stores and three distribution centers. Its net loss through the first three quarters ended Oct. 28 was running at $37 million compared to a loss of $28 million in the first three quarters of 1999. Sales of $1 billion for the period were roughly flat, but comp store sales had decreased 4.4 percent from the prior year period.

The discounter included among its largest creditors Springs Industries and WestPoint Stevens in its filing. Dollar amounts owed to the top creditors will be published on Jan. 5.

Bradlees also said that pending bankruptcy court approval, it had reached an agreement to sell its inventory to a consortium led by Gordon Brothers Retail Partners of Boston. The company expects to retain store associates through this process. It also is considering options regarding the sale of its leasehold interests.

The company which emerged from Chapter 11 in February 1999 struggled against encroaching competition in its markets from Wal-Mart, Target, and Kohl's.

Bradlees, with sales of $15 billion in 1999, ranked #20 on Home Textiles Today's Top 50 Retail Giants survey, with home textiles sales of $182 million.

As the retailer began moving through the liquidation last week, it faced a move by officials in Massachusetts and Connecticut who want the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York to compel Bradlees to honor gift certificates and merchandise returns or exchanges.

Meanwhile, Ames launched an ad campaign notifying consumers that it will provide an even exchange or store credit for merchandise returns purchased at Bradlees' stores. Ames has 67 stores within a 10-mile radius of a closing Bradlees' unit. In cases where Ames issues a store credit refund, it will do so at the Bradlees price or the most recent Ames sale price, whichever is less. The policy will remain in place through Jan. 15.

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