4 Best Stores Closing In State -- Company Says Sales, Profits Going Down

Another retailer operating in the Seattle area is closing its doors.

Best Products said today it will close 81 of its 169 Best stores, including all 13 in Washington, in the next few months.

The company, a specialty retailer offering jewelry and home furnishings, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sept. 24, citing declining sales and profits, after a prospective buyer withdrew its offer.

About 2,000 full-time workers and 2,500 part-time employees will lose their jobs.

Washington stores to be closed are in Bellevue, Bellingham, Everett, Federal Way, Lynnwood, Olympia, Puyallup, Silverdale, Spokane, the Spokane Valley, Tacoma, Tri-Cities and Tukwila. Each has about 25 full-time and 30 part-time employees.

A distribution center in Seattle, with 75 employees, also will be closed. Other centers and stores being closed are in Texas, Colorado, Oregon and California.

The stores will be closed all at once rather than in stages. Going-out-of business sales will begin later this month and end in late December.

Portland-based Fred Meyer likely will be the biggest beneficiary, said Lesa Sroufe, retail analyst with Ragen MacKenzie in Seattle. The Best stores being closed are near Fred Meyer outlets, which offer similar merchandise, she said.

Best, based in Richmond, Va., entered the market here in 1982 when it bought the Jafco chain.

Peter Chapman of Bankruptcy Creditors' Service Inc., a research firm in Princeton, N.J., said Best, which filed for bankruptcy court protection in 1991 and emerged in 1994, has a dim chance of emerging againbecause of competition among retailers. "Creditors should consider a liquidation," Chapman said.