Public Company Incorporated: 1957, together Hills Department stores Inc. Employees: 18,650 Sales: $1.856 exchange rate Stock Exchanges: new York SICs: 5311 room Stores


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Company History:

A pioneer in the discount save industry, Hills Stores company is the eighth-largest basic merchandise discount retailer in the united States. Many of its stores are situated in the Midwest and also mid-Atlantic states. The firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy defense in 1991, as it faced huge debt organization from a leveraged buyout and also aggressive competition native Wal-Mart and also Kmart. It has actually since accomplished a significant recovery and also is facing its competitors head-on.

The first Hills room store opened up in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1957. Founder Herbert H. Goldberger had actually operated hosiery shop before starting what quickly came to be a chain that discount stores. Over there were seven Hills shop by 1964, when the chain was sold to SCOA Industries, Inc. By the mid-1960s, there were 12 Hills shop sprinkled v Pennsylvania, Ohio, and also West Virginia. Goldberger saw the agency grow to 99 stores during his tenure together president, which finished when the turned the reins end to his son, Stephen A. Goldberger, in 1981. The chain thrived to around 125 shop by the mid-1980s.

A Boston-based take over pro, cutting board H. Lee, aided Goldberger acquire SCOA through a leveraged buyout in 1985. All of the company"s subsidiaries however Hills were offered off, yet the $642 million deal left the discount retailer with substantial debt. Hills take it on even an ext debt four years later, once it to buy 33 yellow Circle stores from Federated department Stores. Those stores formed part of the 41 brand-new stores Hills opened in 1989. The growth gamble did not prove to it is in a great one, however. The economic situation took a plunge, sales suffered, and also Hills"s initiatives to restructure the balance paper failed. To complicate problem further, countless of its stores to be in the heart of Wal-Mart and also Kmart territory. Carrying much more than $900 million debt during a retailing recession, Hills could not purchased to song up its stores to take on its hefty competitors. The agency filed a petition because that relief under thing 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy code in February 1991.

After coming to be the chairman that Hills, Lee started looking because that someone come resuscitate the company. Michael Bozic had actually spent 27 year at Sears, Roebuck & Company, climbing to end up being head of the Sears goods Group, among the company"s main divisions. Together Hills"s brand-new president and CEO, Bozic take it swift action. The company closed 63 unprofitable stores and also withdrew from some industries altogether--such as Nashville and also the states of Georgia and also Michigan. It concentrated instead top top the places that were already strong: Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Ohio towns choose Cleveland, Akron, and also Youngstown.

A main distribution center was set up in a former Sears structure in Columbus, Ohio. Practically all was would circulation through this facility. This cut the prices of list control and also overhead, as vendors might deliver merchandise to this site rather of to each of Hills"s stores. Cashiers to be cut back to a transactions-per-hour standard. Hills likewise undertook a major remodeling program, though it did therefore on a budget. In 1992, Hills to be spending around $650,000 every store, contrasted with the $2 million the Kmart was spending that very same year. Among the shortcuts Hills took throughout remodeling was painting its stores white through modest-color trim. This reduced the expense of warehousing a rainbow of paints, and also helped to to mark the merchandise.

Another facet of Hills"s strategy to be to target its main customers: women shopping for values for themselves and their families. The merchandise mix in ~ Hills was already tipped toward these customers, with focus on apparel and also toys. Rather of transforming this mix, Hills made decision to beat up that presentation. For example, the chain invest in brand-new fixtures that shown items therefore shoppers can see the fronts of sweaters, jackets, and blouses, rather than seeing lengthy racks of apparel with only the sleeves showing. While the economies of scale obtainable to bigger companies prefer Wal-Mart expected that they can undercut Hills on the prices of plenty of items, Hills had an advantage in that it mostly stocked soft goods and apparel, which typically commanded higher margins. In 1992, about fifty percent of Hills"s sales come from apparel and also soft goods, compared to around 30 percent at Wal-Mart. Hills likewise launched a line of private-label apparel--basics because that children and adults--called American Spirit. The line emphasized that is U.S. Beginnings by featuring shots that the factories wherein the apparel to be made in the labor Day declaring circular that introduced it.

Toys were likewise a Hills trademark. Most bigger discounters stocked increase on toys close to the holidays, climate trimmed back again. Hills"s big year-round toy selection accounted for more than 10 percent of its sales. To make room, the agency left items like sporting goods, appliances, automotive products, and also lawn and also garden supplies to that is competitors. Hills"s the strongest lines were apparel and also soft items, choose towels and sheets. Bozic synthetic up the company"s strategy in dealing with its gigantic retail competitors: "The trick is come dance through them and not fight with them." by the finish of 1992, Hills to be the top performer in the discount retail store market.

By the finish of 1993, 78 of Hills"s 151 stores had actually been remodeled and sales were a stunning $1.76 billion. In October 1993, the firm emerged native bankruptcy, having actually won court approval because that its reorganization plan a month earlier. That arrangement included the circulation of an ext than $540 million in cash, bonds, and agency stock to creditors. To reflect that is rebirth, the company readjusted its name from Hills Department stores Inc. To Hills stores Company. A banking syndicate headed up by Chemical bank Corporation granted the chain an unsecured three-year working capital facility of $225 million. Hills obtained confidence through its robust 1993 sales, however it was nonetheless sobering that two various other discount chains filed for bankruptcy roughly this time: Rose"s stores Inc. And also Jamesway Corporation. Regional chains proficient great an obstacle competing with the huge national chains favor Wal-Mart, Kmart, and also Target Stores.

Hills"s recovery was solid sufficient that it opened up a new store in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1994--its an initial since 1990. The new store--formerly a Kmart--competed straight with 2 Wal-Marts and a brand-new Kmart nearby. Thought about a prototype, the new store featured further improvements in its displays of women"s apparel and also bar-code scanning and brand-new department graphics. By this time, Hills had a total of 151 units, including six shop in Virginia and one apiece in Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Maryland. Sales in its midwestern and eastern says stores were steady, and also Bozic to be pursuing concessionaires for the stores that were much more than 100,000 square feet.

Just as it seemed as despite the company"s recovery to be on track, a fight broke out amongst shareholders. An investment money that owned just under 10 percent of Hills"s common shares, Dickstein Partners, L.P., pitched a stock-repurchase plan. Mark Dickstein said that the company"s stock to be undervalued and also the plank was no acting aggressively enough. Dickstein made his luck by investing in bankrupt providers such as an initial Republic financial institution in Texas and also the retailer Carson, Pirie, Scott & Company. What concerned Bozic and also other Hills executives was the Dickstein"s plan would tack $150 million in debt onto the company"s balance sheet. Cutting board Lee, who had actually led the leveraged buyout and amassed the debt the had contributed to the company"s bankruptcy in 1991, was still Hills"s chairman and also his storage was fresh. Dickstein approached the shareholders because that formal support for his plan. The fight had got to such a pitch by the loss that Dickstein do a bid to replace fifty percent of the company"s directors. But a truce was reached at the end of September, and also Hills announced a $75 million stock buyback.

Hills closeup of the door 1994 with brand-new optimism and also announced an "aggressive development plan" that contained opening 15 brand-new stores in 1995 and also up to 20 stores a year for numerous years after ~ that. Notably, the firm opened 2 stores in Richmond, Virginia--considered Wal-Mart territory--in loss of 1994 and also was stampeded by holiday shoppers headed because that the strength Rangers aisle. This significant Hills"s the furthest southeastern expansion. The shop included wider aisles for stroller-pushing shoppers, and Hills"s very first newborn section. It additionally sold special-sized women"s apparel. By that time, Hills had remodeled all but 37 that its existing stores, leaving its weakest stores because that last. Sales because that 1994 topped $1.8 billion. The entire chain expected to have its brand-new look in ar by spring 1995, one year ahead of schedule.

Principal Subsidiaries: Canton Advertising, Inc.

Further Reading:"A acquainted Story--with a few Lessons for the Future," Discount keep News, October 17, 1994, p. 12.Andreoli, Teresa, "Hills Wows Richmond Shoppers," Discount store News, November 21, 1994, p. 1.Bailey, Steve, "Life ~ Bankruptcy," Boston Globe, September 22, 1994.Berss, Marcia, "A turnaround Is the finest Revenge," Forbes, respectable 3, 1992, p. 83.Emert, Carol, "Heine defense Makes a Bid because that Hills," WWD, august 23, 1994, p. 2."Hills back in black color in fourth Quarter," everyday News Record, march 20, 1992, p. 10."Hills"s Bozic named Discounter the the Year," Discount save News, June 20, 1994."Hills room Stores out of thing 11," brand-new York Times, October 6, 1993, p. 10."Hills it s okay Court Approval on chapter 11 Reorganization," WWD, September 13, 1993, p. 35."Hills has actually Net lose after Charges," day-to-day News Record, august 20, 1992, p. 8."Hills Puts emphasis on cost Containment," MMR, April 18, 1994, p. 24.Liebeck, Laura, "After merry Christmas, Hills sees Happy new Year," Discount save News, February 1, 1993, p. 3.------, "Hills Bounces back with Expansion, Remodeling," Discount store News, April 4, 1994.------, "Hills Files plan to arise from chapter 11 by September," Discount save News, June 21, 1993, p. 1.------, "Hills Looks come Greener Pastures," Discount keep News, may 3, 1993, p. 1.------, "Hills new Prototype Redefines the Chain," Discount save News, might 18, 1992. P. 1.------, "Hills Rolls out American heart Apparel v Patriotic Theme," Discount save News, October 5, 1992, p. 3.------, "Reorganized Hills beginning Expanding," Discount store News, November 1, 1993, p. 1.Nordby, Neil, "Hills, Stein Mart Fuel climb in DSN share Index," Discount save News, December 7, 1992, p. 26.Strom, Stephanie, "Hills Stores, in Comeback, seeks Life after ~ Wal-Mart," brand-new York Times, September 26, 1994.

Source: International magazine of agency Histories, Vol. 13.

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St. James Press, 1996.