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August 06. 2013 11:36AM

Stop & Shop to close NH stores; 670 to lose jobs


Groceries wait to be loaded into a car at Stop & Shop on South Willow Street in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
Stop & Shop Supermarkets on Tuesday announced plans to close all six grocery stores and three gas stations in New Hampshire on or before Sept. 21, with layoffs expected for 670 employees, according to company spokesman Suzi Robinson.
The announcement comes just a week after Shaw's Supermarkets announced it was closing six of its 34 grocery stores in the Granite State.
The decision by Stop & Shop amounts to a complete retreat from New Hampshire, where Market Basket and Hannaford have been gaining market share and opening new stores in recent years.
The Stop & Shop closings will be at 7 Kilton Road, Bedford; 9 Wason Road, Hudson; 137 Portsmouth Ave, Exeter; 601 Nashua St., Rte. 101A, Milford; 777 S. Willow St., Manchester; and 365 Lincoln St., Manchester.
"We continually assess our stores and operating performance. Our six stores in New Hampshire have not achieved performance goals after many years of investment, and we have made the difficult decision to close these under-performing stores," said Joe Kelley, president of the Stop & Shop New England Division. "This action will allow us to focus our investment and resources on continuing to grow our business in other areas of the Northeast."
Stop & Shop, which entered the New Hampshire market 10 years ago, continues to own and operate 400 grocery stores in New England, New York and New Jersey. While closing stores in New Hampshire, the company continues to expand elsewhere.
"Last year we entered a new market and opened an energy-efficient store in Wayland, Mass.," said Robinson. "This year we opened stores in Medford in January and Somerville in June. At the end of June, we opened a second store in downtown Nantucket."
The New Hampshire market has not been as favorable for the company, with New England division headquarters in Quincy, Mass.
"We are sensitive to the impact this decision will have on our associates, our loyal customers and the communities we have served. We deeply appreciate the years of dedicated service our associates in New Hampshire have provided since 2003, and the loyal patronage from our customers," said Kelley.
Robinson said the company will work with the employee union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445, as well as state and local government to provide job search assistance and to support employees who will be losing their jobs.
Stop & Shop was founded in 1914 as the Economy Grocery Stores Company in Somerville, Mass., according to the company website. The name was changed to Stop & Shop in 1947.
The company was acquired in 1996 by the Dutch conglomerate Ahold, one of the largest food retailers in the world, traded on the European stock exchange Euronext.
Closures by Shaw's and Stop & Shop will leave several anchor tenant positions vacant in shopping areas throughout New Hampshire. Robinson said Stop & Shop is a tenant in all six locations and will continue to honor its lease obligations.
"We will work with the property owners with respect to the future of the store premises," she said.
Stop & Shop loyalty card holders will still be able to redeem points at New Hampshire Stop & Shop gas stations until they close, and at participating Shell locations, at least for the time being. "We do not have further information yet on Shell stations regarding their continued participation in Stop & Shop Gas rewards in New Hampshire," said Robinson.
The layoff by Stop & Shop was large enough to trigger a mandatory notification to the state. Shaw's has still not determined the exact number of layoffs resulting from its store closures, as efforts to continue to reassign some of those workers to remaining stores. "We're still working though that process and will be for the next couple of weeks," said Shaw's spokesman Steve Sylven.
Stop & Shop customers with questions may call the company's Consumer Affairs Department at 1-800-767-7772 (option 3, then option 6) Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
 
dsolomon@unionleader.com