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Remaining Arkansas Fred’s Stores Scheduled For Closing

(MEMPHIS)  The last sixteen Fred’s Discount Stores in Arkansas are in the final stages of becoming finally closed.

The struggling Memphis, Tennessee discount retailer has shutdown all of its general-merchandising stores in Arkansas.

The stores were among the 129 closings announced Friday. When the dust settles, the 72-year-old chain will have 80 stores, all clustered around its distribution center in Dublin, Georgia.

Three months ago, Fred’s had more than 450 stores in 13 states. There were 61 stores in Arkansas. The spate of closings began in April when the chain announced that it was closing 159 under-performing stores. Of those, 19 were in Arkansas, including one in Mena on Highway 71 South.

Friday’s list of closing stores included Fred’s in De Queen, Dumas, Harrisburg, Holiday Island, Lake Village, Manila, Marianna, Marked Tree, Nashville, Piggott, Pine Bluff, Star City, Vilonia, Warren, Helena-West Helena and Yellville.

“While it is never easy to make decisions that impact our valued employees and customers, this initiative represents another necessary step in our continued efforts to stabilize our business by simplifying our store portfolio and product assortment,” Joseph Anto, Fred’s chief executive officer, said in a news release.

The chain’s remaining 80 stores will have a clearance sale as part of an effort to refocus the product mix, simplify the chain’s store portfolio and pay down debt.

“We are pleased to present our loyal customers the unique and compelling opportunity to purchase heavily discounted items for a limited time,” Anto said. “We encourage shoppers to take advantage of these unmatched deals, and stock up on items that may be permanently removed from Fred’s shelves, come August.”

Fred’s said it is working with Malfitano Advisors LLC and SB360 Capital Partners to help manage the clearance sale.

All pharmacies, including 69 in the 129 stores that will close, will remain open, the company said. Eleven of the 16 Arkansas stores scheduled to close have pharmacies. Those stores are in De Queen, Dumas, Harrisburg, Holiday Island, Nashville, Piggott, Star City, Vilonia, Warren, Helena-West Helena and Yellville.

Fred’s has 166 pharmacies, which the chain said it is trying to sell.

The announcement came three weeks after Fred’s announced the closings of 49 stores, including 10 in Arkansas. The Arkansas stores are in Bald Knob, Beebe, Brinkley, Cherokee Village, Clarksville, Hamburg, Heber Springs, Morrilton, North Crossett and Sheridan. Most of those stores contain pharmacies, which also will remain open.

At that time, Fred’s said it was undertaking a review of strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value in a bid to turn around the business. It retained PJ Solomon, a leading Wall Street financial advisory firm, to aid the review.

In May, Fred’s announced that it was closing 16 more stores in Arkansas, among 104 stores that would be shuttered.

Fred’s struggles comes against a backdrop of gloom among retailers as customers continue to migrate to the Internet.

Coresight Research, a New York firm specializing in retail analysis, said earlier this month that U.S. retailers have announced 7,062 store closings in 2019 versus 3,022 openings.

The closings so far this year have exceeded the total recorded for all of 2018, which was 5,864, according to Coresight, which estimates U.S. store closings could reach 12,000 by the end of 2019.

Fred’s posted revenue of $1.81 billion in its latest fiscal year that ended Jan. 31, a 15% decline from the previous fiscal year. Its largest shareholder is Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund and umbrella for Media News Group, also known as Digital First Media. On Friday, Fred’s stock fell 3 cents, or 7%, to close at 40 cents.

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