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Peerless department store chain to close

PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- The Peerless Co. department store chain, a Rhode Island apparel retailer for more than 50 years, will close soon because of the sagging regional economy and a snag in reorganization plans, the company'spresident said Tuesday.

The eight-store chain has already slashed prices to sell off inventory and will continue to do so until it ceases operations, President Edward Mufson said.

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'It's going to take a number of weeks,' Mufson said. 'A lot will depend on the pace of liquidation.'

The chain has been operating under court supervision since the spring of last year, when its owner, New York-based Goldring Inc., filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

Since then, retailing chains such as Ames of Rocky Hill, Conn.; Massachusetts-based Jordan Marsh; and The Narragansett clothing company based in Tiverton, R.I., have gone into bankruptcy.

The Peerless chain has operated for 53 years in Rhode Island and employs 200 people. The company has stores in Providence, Pawtucket, Warwick, Narragansett Lincoln, North Dartmouth, Mass., and Norwood, Mass.

'We told (employees) we would work with them and help them,' Mufson said. 'I'm sure a great many of them are committed to staying with us until the end. At least half the staff has five or more years here and some have 20 to 30 years. They are all very loyal.'

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'Some people are hoping someone will come along and buy some of the stores,' he said. 'There is a possible scenario for that.'

Mufson said Goldring Inc. lost financial support from a major lender during its reorganization. The slumping economy also forced it to liquidate, he said. Goldring Chairman Ivan Friedman could not be reached for comment.

Peerless began as a women's clothing shop in Troy, N.Y., and expanded to Rhode Island in 1937. Goldring bought it in 1969.

Two years ago, Peerless posted a record $1.3 million profit. The sagging new England economy has since eroded sales, but Mufson said Peerless has 'been making a substantial contribution to the parent company.'

He declined comment on specific sales figures or whether Peerless would have survived if it were independent of Goldring.

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