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Fred’s to close by end of month
Fred's Closing
A large sign at Fred’s on Jefferson Davis Highway in east Camden announces its intention to close. The store is one of 263 the southeast chain announced it would close in press releases issued in April and May. It is one of nearly 20 locations to be closed in South Carolina by the end of the month. - photo by Martin L. Cahn/C-I

It wasn’t on the list in April, but by May, the Fred’s in east Camden on Jefferson Davis Highway was added on: the store will close along with hundreds of others across the Southeast.

The initial press release, issued in early April, announced the closure of 159 “underperforming and unprofitable” stores across the country. Fred’s had already announced in September 2018 that it had reached an agreement with Walgreen’s to sell the company’s pharmacy patient prescription files and related pharmacy inventory from all 179 of its stores that included pharmacies.

The April list of stores, 10 in South Carolina -- including one in nearby Chester -- were to close by the end of May. In a press release at the time, Fred’s CEO Joseph Anto said, “After a careful review, we have made the decision to rationalize our footprint by closing underperforming stores, with a particular focus on locations with shorter duration leases. Most of the stores have near-term lease expirations and limited remaining lease obligations.”

The company said it started in 1947 and serves locations mostly in the Southeast.

Then, on May 16, Fred’s issued another statement saying it would begin closing another 104 underperforming stores following a “continued evaluation” of the company’s store portfolio. The company said that evaluation included historic and recent store performance, the timing of lease expirations and “other factors.”

This time, east Camden’s location was on the list, along with eight others, including Fred’s in Bishopville, Chesterfield and Sumter.

“These additional store closures are a difficult, but necessary step in the continued restructuring of Fred’s,” Anto said in the May press release.

The additional closures leave Fred’s with a little more than half of the 557 stores it operated prior to the initial announcement in April. The May announcement indicated the 104 stores, including the one on Jefferson Davis Highway, will close by the end of June.

In addition, Fred’s announced that it had entered into a forbearance agreement with its lenders, and could be looking to restructure or, potentially, sell its remaining assets.