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Hatch Road bargain store to close
• 99 Cents Only stores going the way of Kmart
Ceres 99 cents only
The Ceres 99 Cents Only store will be closing soon and taking with it approximately 29 jobs with it. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Approximately 29 workers employed at the Hatch Road 99 Cents Only store will soon be scampering to find new work following the April 5 announcement that the chain is closing all 371 nationwide locations.

“We don’t really know anything,” said one store manager who said she couldn’t speak for the corporate office. “It took us all by surprise because nobody let us know ahead of time.”

Three days later Mark J. Miller, former president of Big Lots and the original Pic ‘N’ Save brand, put together a group of investors to save the 143 stores in Southern California. Unfortunately, nobody has developed a plan to rescue the stores in Central California and Northern California.

In March, 99 Cents Only entered into an agreement with Hilco Global to liquidate all merchandise owned by the company and dispose of certain fixtures, furnishings and equipment at each of the nationwide locations. Sales under this agreement began April 5 when the initial announcement of the store closures was made through a press release. Additionally, Hilco Real Estate is managing the sale of the company’s real estate assets, both owned and leased, in Arizona, California, Nevada and Texas. 

To help facilitate the wind-down, the company has appointed Chris Wells, managing director at Alvarez & Marsal, as chief restructuring officer. Mike Simoncic, interim CEO of 99 Cents Only stores and managing director at Alvarez & Marsal are stepping down. 

Simonic cited the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation and retail theft as main reasons for the nationwide closures.

“This was an extremely difficult decision and is not the outcome we expected or hoped to achieve,” said Simoncic. “Unfortunately, the last several years have presented significant and lasting challenges in the retail environment, including the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, shifting consumer demand, rising levels of shrink, persistent inflationary pressures and other macroeconomic headwinds, all of which have greatly hindered the company’s ability to operate. We deeply appreciate the dedicated employees, customers, partners, and communities who have collectively supported 99 Cents Only Stores for decades.”

According to data provided on March 12 by the U.S. Labor Department, the annual inflation rate in the country was 3.2% for the 12 months ending in February, compared to the previous rate of 3.1%. On April 10 the U.S. inflation rate for the 12 months ending in March was 3.5 percent.

As for retail theft, the National Retail Federation found that the average shrink rate in their latest study in 2022 increased to 1.6%, up from 1.4% in 2021. When taken as a percentage of total retail sales, that represents $112.1 billion in losses in 2022, up from $93.9 billion in 2021. 

“While retail shrink encompasses many types of loss, it is primarily driven by theft, including organized retail crime,” noted the NRF.

99 Cents Only claimed in their press release that they “engaged in an extensive analysis of all available and credible alternatives to identify a solution that would allow the business to continue. The company ultimately determined that an orderly wind-down was necessary and the best way to maximize the value of 99 Cents Only stores’ assets.”

Employees at the Ceres location do not have a timetable as to how long they will remain open, as it all depends on how much inventory they can sell in the coming days. But one thing is for certain: “It’s sooner rather than later,” one employee chimed in.

Nearly everything inside the Ceres store is discounted. There is still quite a lot of stock on the shelves, from frozen food, sodas, snacks, toiletries, arts and crafts supplies, toys, dining utensils and more.

99 Cents Only stores was founded in 1982 by Dave Gold, who at the age of 50 opened the first store in Los Angeles.

Christopher Correa contributed to this report.