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Shopko to close more than 250 stores amid bankruptcy filing

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 2/8/2019 Jeff Bollier
Customers shop at the original Shopko store on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 in Green Bay, Wis. Shopko filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday and announced it will close 105 stores, including the company's original store on Military Ave in Green Bay. © Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc. Customers shop at the original Shopko store on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 in Green Bay, Wis. Shopko filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday and announced it will close 105 stores, including the company's original store on Military Ave in Green Bay.

Shopko will close almost 70 percent of its locations between now and mid-May as it attempts to reorganize and emerge from bankruptcy. 

The company published a list this week that indicates it will close 251 stores, more than twice the number of stores Shopko identified for closing in mid-January. 

The company currently operates about 360 stores in more than two dozen states. The list of closures would cut that to fewer than 110 stores. 

Shopko originally announced plans to close 39 stores in December before expanding that list to more than 100 stores in January when it filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors. This week's expanded list added another 139 locations, Shopko spokeswoman Michelle Hansen said. 

Hansen said the volume of store closures forced the company to issue a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice in Wisconsin and Illinois. She said the added closures were "difficult, but necessary." 

"Through our conversations with the potential buyers, it has become clear that it is in our best interest to operate with a significantly smaller store footprint," Hansen said in a statement. "We remain hopeful that we will be able to emerge as a stronger company, and we believe that this is the best course of action to make ourselves more attractive to potential buyers and successfully emerge from Chapter 11."

The stores will be closed in phases between March 2 and May 12.

Shopko and its affiliate companies filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors on Jan. 16 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Nebraska, citing assets of less than $1 billion and debts between $1 billion and $10 billion. 

The Wisconsin-based retailer announced plans to close stores, sell its pharmacy assets and spin off its optical centers into standalone locations. The changes were designed to enable the company to emerge from bankruptcy with the ability to continue operating with a slimmed-down, more profitable footprint across the Midwest and Northwest United States.  

In December, the company sold pharmacy assets to dozens of locations to Kroger, CVS Pharmacy, Hy-Vee and other competitors. In late January, the company sold its remaining pharmacy assets for an estimated $52 million, well below its original projections, according to bankruptcy court documents. Walgreen's bought the bulk of the remaining pharmacy assets during the January sale. 

Shopko pharmacy operations sold last month have already started to close this week.

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