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Bradlees logo used from 1964–2001
|Founded||September 30, 1958|
|Headquarters||Braintree, Massachusetts, U.S.|
Number of locations
|Products||Clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, electronics, housewares|
Number of employees
|Parent||Stop & Shop (owned from 1961 to 1992)|
Bradlees was named for Bradley International Airport, where early planning meetings were held by the store's founders. The first store was opened in New London, Connecticut in 1958. The company was acquired by grocery chain Stop & Shop in 1961, which owned the chain until 1992.
In the New York/New Jersey area, nearly all shopping centers that had Bradlees stores would also have a Stop & Shop in the same plaza or, in some cases, connected with the store as a supercenter, but this ended when Stop & Shop pulled out of the New York market during the 1980s (not to return until 2000 when Royal Ahold bought the company and rebranded its Edwards chain as Stop & Shop).
Like some of its competition, including Caldor, many Bradlees stores had snack stands/lunch counters that served soft drinks, hot dogs, french fries, soft pretzels, ice cream, prepackaged cookies and various other food items to shoppers. Theoretically one could have gone to these stores with the sole intention of eating, but in practice almost no one did this, preferring the higher quality food and broader selection they could find at a dedicated food establishment. In 1993, Bradlees added Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Dunkin' Donuts items to some of the stores that didn't have snack stands as well as new stores constructed during this time.
During the 1970s and early 1980s (and again in the late 1990s), Bradlees was known for its TV and print ads featuring the character "Mrs. B." (played by actress Cynthia Harris), depicted as the chain's buyer, who constantly searched for bargains to pass on to her customers. The advertising jingle went, "At Bradlees, you buy what Mrs. B buys. And nobody can buy like Mrs. B." ("Mrs. B" was also credited with re-popularizing the high five in 1990.)
Bankruptcy and closure
The first major Bradlees store closings came in 1988, when it exited from the Southern United States. It also closed a few stores in New Jersey. Bradlees had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 1995 and closed down some underperforming stores in 1996. Some of those locations were turned into Ames.
James Zamberlan, former Senior Vice President of Lazarus Department Stores, was appointed as Executive Vice President of Bradlees on August 25, 1995. The company successfully emerged from bankruptcy in February 1999 after making a decent profit through 1998 and early 1999. Bradlees also took advantage of the liquidation and closure of competitor Caldor shortly after its emergence from bankruptcy and purchased several of its former stores.
The fortunes of Bradlees took a turn for the worse in 2000 and on December 26, the company announced another filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, and said that Bradlees would begin liquidation sales as soon as possible, ending business. Executives of Bradlees said it filed for bankruptcy protection because of a general economic downturn, including rising interest rates and higher gas and heating oil prices that had left customers with less disposable income. The executives also said new competition, unseasonable weather in the first half of 2000, and the tightening of trade credit contributed to its inability to operate profitably.
In an interview just before the chain closed, analyst Eric Beder of Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. said "They really needed a perfect economy to get this thing moved", referring to the attempt at recovery after the restructuring of the company. "But the recent consumer spending slow down did not facilitate that environment", he said.
In early January 2001, the chain started their liquidation sales and the final store closed in March 2001. At the time of its liquidation, the company had 10,000 employees and 105 stores in 7 states. Many of its former store locations were purchased by Wal-Mart, although other locations became The Home Depot, Forman Mills, Shaw's Star Market, Target, Kohl's, Ocean State Job Lot, Bob's Stores, Marshalls, Dollar Tree, ShopRite, National Wholesale Liquidators, or Stop & Shop. Stop & Shop owned much of its real estate even after it spun off the company. Stop & Shop was acquired by Ahold in 1996, and some former Bradlees were sold to other Ahold divisions, such as Giant.
- International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 12; Tina Grant, editor; St. James Press; Detroit; 1996; p. 48
- Bradlees Home Sale (1996) - YouTube
- "BRADLEES APPOINTS JAMES ZAMBERLAN EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT - STORES AND STORES OPERATIONS". PRNewswire. August 25, 1995. Retrieved December 10, 2010.
- Bradlees Official Website
- History of Bradlees
- Story on the closing of all 105 Bradlees Stores
- Bradlees Christmas "Smile" 1987 TV commercial
- Bradlees "After Thanksgiving Sale" 1995 commercial
- Bradlees "Mrs. B" 1996 commercial with Cynthia Harris
- Bradlees "One Day Sale" 1998 commercial
- Bradlees "Going Out of Business" commercial