MANCHESTER — Less than 36 hours before Stop & Shop was to shutter six New Hampshire supermarkets Friday night, Heather Anderson cashed in on half-off prices.
“I got 14 bottles of wine for about 80 bucks — of the good stuff,” the Manchester resident said in the parking lot of the Lincoln Street supermarket Thursday. “Light bulbs and antacid for the wine.”
The Massachusetts supermarket chain announced Thursday that six stores and three gas stations already pegged for closure would shut for good at 9 p.m. Friday. The supermarket chain announced Aug. 6 it would close the affected stores on or before Sept. 21.
Asked why the stores were closing so soon, company spokesman Suzi Robinson said in an e-mail: “We had an up to 50 percent off liquidation sale, and it depleted the inventory very quickly across the stores.”
On Thursday afternoon, the Lincoln Street store had most aisles bare and blocked by shopping carts. Lipstick, chocolate Twizzlers licorice and a Star Wars Yoda toy were among the items for sale at 50 percent off. The bakery, deli and produce sections were empty. A selection of cakes included a quarter-sheet cake for $18.99 before the discount. And not-so-fresh bouquets of flowers were slashed half off their $6.99 price.
Stop & Shop, which entered the New Hampshire market a decade ago, said the stores weren’t meeting performance targets. The other stores closing are 7 Kilton Road, Bedford; 9 Wason Road, Hudson; 137 Portsmouth Ave., Exeter, 601 Nashua St., Route 101A, Milford; and 777 South Willow St., Manchester.
“We deeply appreciate and thank our associates for their years of service and dedication to the communities of Southern New Hampshire,” Robinson said. “We thank our loyal customers for their patronage and appreciate the opportunity to have served since 2003.”
A store employee said workers received no advance warning of the shutdown.
“The morale is very low, very dismal,” said the worker, who didn’t want to be identified. He called his job prospects “very slim” since he will be competing with more than 1,000 other displaced employees from Stop & Shop and Shaw’s Supermarkets, which announced a week earlier it was closing six New Hampshire stores.
Robinson said workers will be paid through Oct. 6
Michael Power, community outreach administrator at the Office of Workforce Opportunity, said the state’s rapid response team is meeting with displaced employees this month.
Power said meetings with Shaw’s workers are scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday of next week for 71 full-time and 373 part-time workers.
Meetings for 522 part-time and 150 full-time workers will take place Aug. 27-29.
Robinson said she didn’t know how many displaced Stop & Shop workers might find work at other locations.
Power said the laid-off workers will learn about unemployment benefits and job training opportunities.
“We’ve got a whole raft of programs they can access to help them get back in the job market, get them re-employed,” Power said.
He said not all workers will attend the sessions since many are part-time and returning to high school or college.
Power said the job market is better than two years ago.
“We’re in contact with employers who may be gearing up for their Christmas season who may need extra employees to handle the kinds of things they’re handling at a Stop & Shop Supermarket,” he said. “The New Hampshire economy is recovering, so we’ve got opportunities for them we may not have had two years ago because the economy is growing.”