Shaws Will Shutter Five Stores

By Jess Bidgood

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Jan 5, 2011

BOSTON -- The Shaws grocery store chain is closing five New England Stores. It's the latest in a string of major retail closures across the state.

In a statement on Wednesday, the company said the stores were not profitable, citing "the competitive markets we operate in, and today’s difficult economic environment." The Massachusetts stores are in New Bedford, Revere and Stoneham. The Rhode Island stores slated for closure are in Warwick and Johnston.

Those closures were announced hours after two other large retailers said they'd be closing some area doors. Earlier on Wednesday, department store giant Macy's announced their decision to shutter their Chestnut Hill store, which employs about 140 people. Massachusetts-based BJ's Wholesale Club also said it would shutter five stores and cut hundreds of jobs.

Harvard Business School retail expert Nancy Koehn said the rash of closures could be part of a structural adjustment in the American economy.

"I think it probably says something about the fact that America is massively overstored," Koehn said. "The last two years of real recession are like a grand colonic cleanse for the American store system because we simply have too many stores."

That, combined with the rise of online shopping and a tepid economy mean that many business leaders remain cautious, despite high holiday sales at the end of 2010. "It's still a very uncertain time," Koehn said.

But it's not all doom and gloom for local retailers -- New-York-based supermarket Wegman's is hiring 500 local workers to open its first Massachusetts store, in Northborough.

She says Wegmans is unique, with an emphasis on prepared food that puts it in a slightly different market from Shaw's. "They're not cheap, it's not Trader Joe's, or Costco," Koehn said. "It's well-prepared food in a very attractive setting with lots of variety and real freshness."

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