“We are not going to be the same store we were before, but… we will still offer almost everything we do now.”
Jack Hughes, Owner, Hughes’ Department Store
Warehouse items to move to main store
OROVILLE – One of Oroville’s largest retailers, Hughes’ Department Store, will remain open despite nearly closing due to falling sales says owner Jack Hughes.
“We think we’re going to make it. We’re not going to be the same store we were before, but while things will change we will still offer almost everything we do now,” said Hughes.
In an effort to “right the ship” Hughes’ has been holding an inventory reduction sale with everything marked down 30 percent and with some items reduced by as much as 40 percent. While the shelves are starting to look bare, Hughes said the store still retains much of its inventory.
“We’ve restructured and paid down a tremendous amount of debt,” he said. “We’re still going to buy from Ace, we just won’t be an ‘Ace Hardware’ store. We have a semi load of stuff coming from them right now.”
The Prince family, which owns Prince’s Center and leases the department store side of the building to Hughes and his wife Mary, has been working with the couple and made some concessions to make the deal work, according to Hughes. While the main store will remain open, Hughes’ Warehouse Store on Ironwood Street will be closing and its inventory of appliances, animal feed, tools and much more will be moved to the main store.
“We’re going to narrow back on the clothes, we realize we’re a working man’s community and will be focusing what we have to offer around that,” he said. “However, I want you to let people know we’ll definitely be keeping the fabric center, I’ve had several concerned calls about that.”
While sitting down to an interview last Monday morning Hughes said he didn’t want to go into everything they would be stocking, but he said in addition to the hardware, some clothing and the fabrics, the store would also be keeping the sporting goods.
“The community will see changes in the store as we move things around to make it all fit, but I think it will be a good fit when we are done,” Hughes said.
He said the workforce, which currently runs between 40 and 45 employees, will be shrinking somewhat. Some of his longtime employees took retirement or were considering it when the store was looking at closing, something they were informed of in December. He said other employees have more than one job so he shouldn’t have to make major layoffs.
Several factors combined to make the couple consider closing the store at the end of this month. A low Canadian dollar made even Hughes’ lower prices harder for cross border shoppers to justify and the fires this summer also slowed traffic heading to Okanogan County.
“We’re expecting two more years of bad Canadian exchange, even figuring that into the equation this store will make it, and when their dollar goes back up and they shop here it will just be a bonus,” he said.
Summing up, he said, “We still have a long way to go and we will be pushing real hard to make it, we are working with Economic Alliance, they were the last linchpin and they have come through for us, which we think will really move us along. We will still have the same great prices and the same great selection, what we really need now is for our community to support us.”