Ames Plans To Close All Stores

ROCKY HILL, Conn. (AP) - A year after seeking bankruptcy protection, Ames Discount Stores announced Wednesday it would shut down all 327 stores in the chain and wind down business.

Ames stores are located mostly in Northeast, Middle Atlantic and Midwest states, including 11 in Ohio. Its stores employ about 22,000 people.

"This was a wrenching decision, but the right course to take. Continued softness in sales, combined with tightening terms and slower shipments from our suppliers, have reduced our funds availability below critical levels," Ames chairman and CEO Joseph R. Ettore, said in a statement.

In its announcement, Ames said that subject to the approval of the Bankruptcy Court, it expected to promptly designate a liquidator to conduct "Going Out of Business" sales at all Ames store locations.

The company said stores are expected to remain open for approximately 10 weeks during this process.

Ames filed for bankruptcy last August. It had hoped to emerge from bankruptcy protection by the end of the second quarter. The discount chain had gone through four rounds of store closings in the last several months.

Ames bought Hills Stores Co. of Massachusetts in 1998 and became the nation's fourth-largest discount retail chain behind Wal-Mart, Kmart and Target.

Economic analysts have said the Hills-related debt caused tough financial times for Ames. The company has previously said the weak economy was taking a toll on its blue-collar core market.

Ames' 11 Ohio stores are in Athens, Carrollton, East Liverpool, Elyria, Marion, Middlefield, Oberlin, Parma, Salem, Warren and Youngstown.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)