|Founded||June 5, 1913
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
later Woburn, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Defunct||November 7, 1997|
|Headquarters||New England, U.S.|
|Products||Electronics, housewares, appliances, exercise equipment, footwear and music|
The chain began in June 1913 when Abraham "Pop" Cohen opened a harness shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When his three sons Maurice, Philip and Norman and daughter Nan entered the business in the 1940s, it evolved into a tire and automotive store and later into a consumer appliance store. Household goods, televisions, and other goods were added to the merchandising mix in the 1950s, as were luggage, sporting goods, toys, and lawn and garden accessories. The first store moved to a former bus garage on 88 First Street in 1956, furthering the expansion of merchandise mix. Lechmere also began advertising on television in the 1950s, and ended all of its prices in 88 to represent the store's address.
The First Street building was expanded in 1962 to a 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) store, to which office equipment, jewelry,hardware and further goods were added. A second store later opened in 1965 in Dedham. In order to capitalize further growth, the Cohens sold the chain to Dayton's, a department store based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that later became Target Corp. Dayton maintained Lechmere as a separate subsidiary, and opened stores in Danvers and Springfield.
As the Cohens withdrew control of the chain, its merchandise mix changed to a discount department store line. Due to declining sales, the chain began cutting prices as well. Stores in Framingham and Manchester, New Hampshire followed in 1977.
Lechmere introduced many retailing innovations, including discount pricing and a central pick-up counter to make shopping easier for customers. Merchandising strategy included offering items at many different price points to offer something for every customer and prices on major appliances listed in code so that customers would have to talk to a sales person to find out the cost. Every year on Washington's Birthday they had a big sale, which featured 22-cent cherry pies to draw customers. Despite the opening of new stores, Lechmere's sales continued to decline, until when C. George Scala was named CEO in 1980. He changed the merchandise mix again to housewares, appliances, sporting goods, electronics, and music.
Berkshire Partners and Boston-based mall developers Steve Karp and Steve Wiener, bought the chain from Dayton Hudson in 1989. As a condition of this sale, stores in the Southeastern United States were closed. In 1992, the company successfully went to the Supreme Court to block union organizers from being on their property in Lechmere, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board. Berkshire Partners sold Lechmere to Montgomery Ward Holdings in 1994, in a more than $200 million deal.
On August 1, 1997, Montgomery Ward announced that all Lechmere stores were to be closed as part of their bankruptcy reorganization. At the time of the chain's closing, 27 stores remained open, including 20 in New England, 12 of which were in Massachusetts. All six HomeImage by Lechmere were also closed at that time. November 7, 1997 was the last day of business for all locations, and all remaining items, which had been increasingly discounted, were offered at 90% off.
The original store and the nearby Green Line station got their names from their locations in Lechmere Square.
- Thomas, Jack (1997-08-12). "Store of memories on brink of demise". Boston Globe.
- Naughton, Michael (2007-01-08). "C. George Scala; helped build Lechmere into N.E. powerhouse". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-11-18.
- "COMPANY NEWS; Dayton Hudson To Sell a Chain". New York Times. 1989-07-20. Retrieved 2007-11-18.
- "Lechmere Closing 8 of 10 Stores in Southeast". The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution. 1989-10-05. p. B1.
- Zuckoff, Mitchell (1994-02-02). "Lechmere agrees to takeover". Boston Globe.
- "Montgomery Ward to close specialty stores". New York Times. 1997-08-01. Retrieved 2007-11-18.
- "All 27 Lechmere stores close; Montgomery Ward Struggling". Boston Globe. 1997-11-08.
Consumer electronics giant Lechmere disappeared yesterday. After 84 years in Massachusetts and three months of shelf-clearing liquidation sales, 12 stores in Massachusetts and 15 more across the Northeast closed their doors for the last time as Lechmere's parent company, Montgomery Ward & Co., continued to struggle with its bankruptcy reorganization.