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AMES LOOKS TO GRAB SLICE OF BRADLEES' CUSTOMER BASE.

ROCKY HILL, Conn.-Ames Department Stores is picking up where Bradlees left off, with hopes of inheriting a portion of the defunct chain's customer base.

Reaching out to consumers in the post-holiday return season, Ames is accepting returns of merchandise purchased at closing Bradlees stores through Jan. 15. Bradlees filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection the day after Christmas, and has embarked on an estimated two-month-long liquidation process.

"[Ames' acceptance of Bradlees product returns] has been great for the Bradlees customer, who had initially been left high and dry," Joe Ettore, chairman and chief executive officer of Ames, told HFN. Following the filing, Bradlees told customers it would not honor product returns or gift certificates. However, Connecticut and Massachusetts state officials sought federal court orders that reversed that decision.

Ames is offering an even exchange or store credit for Bradlees merchandise carried by Ames, and is broadcasting the offer with a 23-market ad blitz. Indeed, 67 Ames stores are located within 10 miles of a closing Bradlees location.

Bradlees customers can bring any purchase made within the past 30 days -- along with a Bradlees sales receipt -- to their nearest Ames location. If Ames carries the item, it will be replaced or a store credit refund will be issued at the Bradlees price or the Ames sales price -- whichever is less.

"We got a lot of good press and more importantly, made many good friends," said Ettore. "The first couple of days we got a lot of customers."

Will Ames benefit long-term from Bradlees' demise? "We hope so, but you never know," said Ettore. He added that Ames hopes to benefit from Bradlees store closings the way it did from the demise of regional discounter Caldor in 1999. "We think the Bradlees closings, as unfortunate as they are, will give us a huge benefit."

Fifteen percent of Ames' stores are located in Bradlees' markets, said Ettore.
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Author:Thau, Barbara
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Jan 8, 2001
Words:315
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