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RETAIL | SHOPKO CONTINUES TO SHRINK

Shopko to close 174 more stores including Monona, Watertown and Columbus

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Shopko

Shopko has announced it is planning to close 22 more stores in Wisconsin.

Shopko’s footprint is going to be even smaller.

The retailer has announced that it will close an additional 174 stores nationwide, including 22 stores in Wisconsin. The list includes stores in Monona, Watertown, Beloit, Columbus and Mayville.

The announcement means that by this spring, Shopko will no longer have a presence in Dane County. In January, Shopko announced the closing of 38 stores, including its two stores in Madison on Mineral Point Road at West Towne Mall and Zeier Road on Madison’s East Side. That announcement came after the Ashwaubenon-based retailer said in late 2018 that it would close 39 stores.

In totality, the closings will leave Shopko with just 109 stores compared to the 360 the company now lists on its website.

Shopko, which was purchased in 2005 by Sun Capital Partners, a private-equity group, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month and said it is restructuring “as a result of excess debt and ongoing competitive pressures.”

Shopko has obtained $480 million in debtor-in-possession financing to help fund and protect its operations through the Chapter 11 process. The money will be used to pay suppliers, vendors and other business partners, according to its filing at the time.

Company officials could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

“In a challenging retail environment, we have had to make some very tough choices, but we are confident that by operating a smaller and more focused store footprint, we will be able to build a stronger Shopko that will better serve our customers, vendors, employees and other stakeholders through this process,” Russ Steinhorst, Shopko’s CEO, said in a statement posted on the company’s website last month at the time of the filing.

In December, Kroger, one of the largest grocery store chains in the country and the owner of Roundy’s, the parent company of Pick ‘n Save, announced it was buying the records of over three dozen Shopko pharmacies, including the Shopko in Watertown. That was followed by Iowa-based Hy-Vee announcing days later that it had purchased the records from 22 other Shopko pharmacies. The Hy-Vee deal was for pharmacies in 17 cities, but the only Wisconsin store on the list was the Shopko Pharmacy on Mineral Point Road. The rest were in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota.

The Monona Shopko opened in 1981 as a main anchor to South Towne Mall and will close May 5. The Shopko on Madison’s West Side opened in 1980 and the East Side store in 1988. Both will close April 14. A Shopko store just off Aberg Avenue on Madison’s North Side, which opened in 1982, closed in 2014.

But while Madison shoppers have scores of big box and other national retailers at which to shop, smaller communities will be left with only dollar stores, a few independent retailers or Walmart. In Watertown, a city of over 24,000, the Kohl’s department store moved to Johnson Creek several years ago, while a Walmart Supercenter is located on Watertown’s south side.

In Columbus, northeast of Madison, Shopko’s presence was short-lived. In 2012, in an effort to reach into smaller communities, Shopko began opening Shopko Hometown stores that are about 35,000 square feet compared to their traditional stores, like those in Madison, which range in size from 85,000 to 100,000 square feet. The Shopko Hometown stores have been built in smaller communities that, in the past, have been bypassed by Shopko and had been largely ignored by Walmart, Target, Kohl’s and Kmart but have been a magnet for the likes of Dollar General and Dollar Store.

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The Hometown concept also has been incorporated into Pamida stores, a discount retailer purchased by Shopko in 1999 and operated as a separate division until 2012 when the two companies merged. One of those converted stores is in Reedsburg.

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