It was just about a year ago to the day that Newsflash asked: “How long will it be before Ames issues another press release” announcing more store closings? That was August 18, 2001. Ames at that time said it was closing 47 more stores, on top of the 32 stores it had closed in November of 2000. This time, Ames went all the way down — announcing in a press release dated August 14th. that it would close all 327 remaining stores. “It is with great sadness,” the company told customers, “that we inform you that Ames is going out of business.” “This was a wrenching decision,” CEO Joe Ettore said, “but the right course to take.” As he did last year, Ettore blamed a “softness in sales”, which is a euphemism for the fact that other stores had been cleaning their clock. Ames will hold a 10 week liquidation sale, and then go the way of Caldors, Montgomery Ward, Bradlees, and many other regional chain stores. Ettore mentioned in his press statement the “difficult environment for discount retailing”, but didn’t name the obvious names. To his workers, Ettore said that most store workers would stay on during the 10 week liquidation, that distribution center workers would stay on until inventory moved through the stores, and that 420 workers at their headquarters were terminated immediately. Workers who were laid off on August 14 were paid through August 14, period. Ames workers were given 3 days to use their discount cards at the store. On August 18th, once the liquidation starts, Ames workers won’t even be able to use their discount cards. As far as any stock holdings, workers were told simply:”Ames will cease as a business, and its stock will be extinguished.” The company said “it is possible that other retailers might take over and reopen some locations, but we cannot predict whether that might happen.” Thus ends the 44 year story of Ames, which had sales last year of $2.7 billion (about 1% the size of Wal-Mart). Founded 4 years before Wal-Mart, the company leaves 21,500 people without work. The next time Wal-Mart tell a local community it creates new jobs — remind them about the “old” jobs that used to exist at Ames, Montgomery Wards, Caldors and Kmart. Some Ames workers may be able to find a spot a Wal-Mart — but that’s hardly a new job. New York state is the big loser, with 85 lost stores, followed by 67 in Pennsylvania, 34 in Massacusetts, 22 in Connecticut, 20 in Maine and Maryland, 19 in New Hampshire, 13 in New Jersey, 12 in Vermont, 11 in Ohio, 7 in Rhode Island, 6 in Virginia, 6 in West Virginia, 4 in Delaware, and 1 in Washington, D.C. Workers in 14 states and the District of Columbia will be liquidated by people who shopped at Wal-Mart.
The double irony here of course is that as these Ames stores empty out, some will be filled by the companies that killed them. Their locations may be taken by Wal-Mart, Kohls, Target etc. In many cases the shell of the building will be torn down. In my hometown of Greenfield, Massachusetts, we lost our Rich’s discount store, and now our Ames. We have no discount store in town now, thanks to “competition” in other communities from the likes of Wal-Mart. Rather than foster competition, the unlevel playing field that the giant companies exploit, actually is destroying competition at the local level. If Joe Ettore finds it “wrenching” to shut down Ames, the people who worked years for the Ames logo find it even more “wrenching” to be out of work. And what effort did Ames put into job placement for these “associates”? “Information about government unemployment benefits and job assistance is available from your state unemployment office.” Have a nice day!