Tweeter abruptly shuts store

NASHUA – Joseph Monte drove from Acton, Mass., to Nashua on Wednesday in search of some holiday deals. His strategy? Hit stores that are going out of business for last-minute bargains.

The first stop was Linens ‘n Things at 261 Daniel Webster Highway. The bankrupt chain has discounted merchandise at all 371 stores in an attempt to shut down by year’s end. Monte said he scored a good deal on cooking utensils at 30 percent off the original price.

The second stop, however, was not as fruitful.

“It’s closed?” Monte said as he approached the locked front door of the Tweeter store at 293 Daniel Webster Highway. “This is terrible. Very bad.”

On Tuesday, bankrupt electronics retailer Tweeter abruptly closed its 70 stores nationwide, five days ahead of the previously announced schedule. The Canton-based company converted its bankruptcy case to a Chapter 7 liquidation and fired more than 600 employees.

Tweeter had been having liquidation sales in anticipation of closing Sunday. The signs outside the Nashua store still advertise discounts of 50 to 80 percent. But the store is dark and the parking lot empty.

George Schultze Asset Management Co., which now owns Tweeter, decided not to put any more money into the company after paying millions of dollars to the company’s largest creditor, Wells Fargo, according to the Associated Press.

Tweeter isn’t the only retailer to fall on hard times lately.

Locally, 50-year-old discount warehouse Zyla’s in Merrimack recently announced it would close its doors after selling off its inventory. The economy was partially to blame: many of the well-known store’s wholesalers have gone out of business. In Nashua, Main Street clothing store Tallulah Rose recently shut its doors after holding a going-out-of-business sale, although the reason behind that closure is unclear. Nashua institution Peter’s Pharmacy on Amherst Street has announced that it will be closing Dec. 9.

But much of the spotlight lately has been on national retailers. In this era of tough competition, national retailers that hold the No. 2 spot in sales are being edged out of some markets.

Already this year, Circuit City closed 20 percent of its stores, leaving markets like Atlanta and Phoenix altogether, before filing for Chapter 11 last month. The company takes second place to Best Buy in the super-competitive retail electronics industry.

Chapter 11 allows a company temporary protection from its creditors in order to reorganize for more efficient operation.

The Sharper Image, known for its high-tech gadgets, filed for bankruptcy in early 2008 and closed all of its U.S. retail stores to the advantage of top competitor Brookstone.

And home goods store Linens ‘n Things lost its battle with rival Bed Bath & Beyond when it filed for bankruptcy in October.

Experts are predicting that weak holiday sales in an already tough economy could push other struggling retailers over the edge. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that early 2009 is expected to bring a large number of retail bankruptcy filings.

Although Black Friday sales were strong across the nation and in New Hampshire, the retail industry is expecting consumers to scale back on holiday shopping. Some retailers are offering deep discounts in an effort to lure cautious shoppers.

Before closing Tuesday, Tweeter also had New Hampshire stores in Manchester, Salem and Portsmouth. The company has requested that $900,000 be put in a fund for unpaid wages, commissions, and payroll taxes for workers.

Adding insult to injury, a hacker took over Tweeter’s Web site for at least an hour Wednesday, replacing it with a picture of President George W. Bush and this message about him and the chain’s owner and restructuring officer: “Don’t trust either of them!!!”

The site called George Schultze, owner of Schultze Asset Management, calling him the “George Bush of Tweeter!: He made promise after promise for over a year. In the end, the promises turned to one big finger.”

The hacked Web site also referenced Craig Boucher, chief restructuring officer for Tweeter, sayting: “Every time he made a public move, he addressed the Tweeter employees – “there’s still hope; keep coming to work; we’ll actually pay you . . . ”

Tweeter employees are reportedly owed at least a week’s pay plus bonuses.