Sad business news to share this morning. Another retailer is calling it quits as Benny’s, which is branded as “Your favorite store” is closing all 31 New England locations including 5 stores in Connecticut, according to media reports.
The five Connecticut locations are in Groton, Old Saybrook, Simsbury, Norwich, and Danielson. The stores are scheduled to close by the end of 2017. A total of 715 employees will be laid off in the process. The company cited the ownership family’s desire to retire and also the inability for smaller retailers to compete with online giant, Amazon. According to its website, Benny’s sells an “assortment of goods from toys and bikes, to housewares and hardware, to electronics and pet, and we still sell and install tires at most locations.”
Benny’s is just the latest retailer to announce store closings in Connecticut. Gymboree, a children’s clothing retailer, announced plans to close 350 Gymboree, Janie and Jack and Crazy 8 locations nationwide, including nine in the Nutmeg State. Last month, K-Mart announced it will close its Southbury location.
Connecticut has seen closures of Bob’s Stores, Eastern Mountain Sports, Payless Shoes, Rue 21, JC Penney in Milford and more. According to a report from Business Insider, the following retailers have filed for bankruptcy this year: Rue 21, Payless ShoeSource, Hhgregg, The Limited, RadioShack, BCBG, Wet Seal, Gordmans, Eastern Outfitters and Gander Mountain.
In a news release the company said, “Benny’s stores, for 93 years a unique family-owned fixture in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Southeastern Massachusetts retailing, will cease operations at all locations, effective at the close of 2017, the company announced today.
“Citing the desire of the Bromberg family ownership to retire from the operation of the retail chain, the company will begin winding down operations at their 31 locations and distribution center effective immediately. The goal is to complete this process by the end of the 2017 calendar year. The decision to cease operations along with the retirements of the current owners was strongly influenced by the changing face of retailing today and the dominance of online retailers like Amazon and others, threatening the ability for Benny’s to remain financially viable in the future. (To sign up for free, local breaking news alerts from more than 100 Connecticut communities click here.)
“The disposition of the company’s real estate holdings – Benny’s owns the land and structures for nearly all of the store locations throughout the region – is still being determined. The company has been fielding offers on those real estate holdings and any relevant developments will be announced at the appropriate time.
Unfortunately, this closure will impact the company’s 715 employees, of which 386 are full-time and 329 are part-time employees.
“As proud owners of Benny’s this is an emotional time for us,” said Arnold Bromberg in a company news release. “Benny’s has been something the Bromberg family has invested enormous amounts of capital, time and energy in for nearly a century in this region. We take great pride in what our retail stores have meant to our employees and many loyal customers for so long. But it is simply time. Our current ownership is all at the age where we would like to retire from the business and spend more time with our families, and we have collectively judged that the always competitive retail landscape has shifted in a way that makes it almost impossible for small, family-owned chains like ours to reasonably compete moving forward.
We’ll miss our employees, who have been such a big part of what has made Benny’s successful for so many decades. So many of them are well-known to our customers and are literally part of the Benny’s DNA,” said Bromberg.
“It is vitally important to us that we perform this closure the ‘right way,’” said Bromberg. “We intend to wind down the business in an orderly, structured way, at the same time focusing our efforts on the most responsible way to dispose of the real estate we own with an eye toward future use. It is also important to all of us that our community knows that this is a calculated business decision based on our knowledge of the retail industry and where it is going in the future. That future is not so bright for small, family-owned chains like ours. We’ve lived and breathed this way of doing business for a long time, but we could not, in good conscience, leave the business to the next generation of our family when these market conditions would so clearly conspire to work against them,” said Bromberg.
The closure of Benny’s marks another illustration of how challenging it has become for retailers to compete in the current retail climate. According to Fung Global Retail & Technology, they are projecting 9,452 store closings in 2017, up 53 percent from the number of doors that went dark amidst the Great Recession in 2008. The Fung analysis cites the rise of e-commerce, the habit of Millennials to spend more on experiences and less on goods and services, and tougher retail competition all around as reasons fueling the downward trend.
“We feel that Benny’s has become part of what makes our small corner of the world so special. We’ll miss our loyal customers and our employees – friends and neighbors – generations of whom have shopped our stores for the past 93 years and have referred to Benny’s as ’my favorite store’. As we wind down this business we want to do our best to ensure that our mark on local retail history will be as positive and lasting as possible,” Bromberg concluded.
With reporting by By Margo Sullivan (Patch Staff)
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Originally published September 9, 2017.