MASS SHUTDOWN: Nine Kmart units closed Sunday, putting into high gear the chain’s plan to close 110 underperforming stores. Gordon Bros., a liquidator, has been retained to help with rest of the closings.
Kmart said its Rockland, Mass., store will shut April 26.
“Fortunately, we have a Kmart in Brockton to serve these customers,” said Jim Ford, vice president for Kmart’s Eastern region.

HILLS HEADS SOUTH: As part of its southeast expansion, Hills Stores Co. said Tuesday it will open its first store in North Carolina and five new stores in the Tidewater/Virginia Beach area of Virginia this year.
The 83,000-square-foot North Carolina unit is expected to open this summer. It will join J.C. Penney, Belks and Peebles as an anchor store in the Signal Hill Mall regional mall in Statesville.
Hills plans to open “several more stores” in North Carolina this year, according to a spokesman. He said more information about the dates and locations will be released as the leases are signed.
In March, Hills will open two new stores in the Tidewater/Virginia Beach area. Three additional units are expected to open in that market later this year, raising Hills’ Virginia store count to 15. Hills operates 154 stores and expects to open up to 15 new units this year.

JERSEY SPACE CRUNCH: Vacancy rates at strip centers in northern New Jersey dropped last year to 3.2 percent from 5.3 percent, according to a study by R.J. Brunelli & Co., a commercial leasing and development firm.
Home furnishings and electronics stores filled much of the available space. The study covered spaces larger than 2,000 square feet along major routes in Union, Somerset, Morris, Essex, Passaic and Bergen Counties.
Route 4, a congested 3-mile stretch linking Paramus with Fairlawn, showed the sharpest decrease in available retail space, to a 1.1 percent vacancy rate, down from 5.8 at the end of 1993. Among the new tenants were Modell’s and Pier 1. The Route 4 figures exclude the vacant former Alexander’s store, which reportedly will be leased by BJ’s Wholesale Club and Home Depot later this year.

BROOKLYN BOUND: Bradlees Inc. continues to scout Brooklyn for a location, and is considering a couple of sites, but is “doubtful” a new store could open before the end of the year, a Bradlees spokesman said. He said Bradlees was “committed” to Brooklyn.
The discounter’s plan to anchor the new Atlantic Center near downtown Brooklyn fell through after negotiations with the developer didn’t work out, the spokesman said. It would have been the chain’s first store in the borough.

COPING IN CALIFORNIA: Clothestime Inc., the struggling off-price chain, received a commitment for a $40 million credit agreement with its current banks, Wells Fargo Bank and Union Bank, to run through Feb. 1, 1997.
The 569-unit operation, based in Anaheim, Calif., posted a loss of $2.7 million in the nine months ended Oct. 29. Clothestime, which has 150 stores in southern California, has been hit hard by the region’s soft economy.
The company said it would seek to erase the red ink and same-store sales declines by expanding branded merchandise. Clothestime is searching for a new general merchandise manager to get the strategy going. “Over the past five years, we tended to get away from the national brands and have recently been about 80 percent private label,” Jeff Dake, a vice president, said. “While we are not giving up on our private label, we will look to grow the branded side of the business.”
In the year-ago nine months, Clothestime earned $6.1 million, or 42 cents. Sales year to date edged up 1.9 percent to $257.4 million from $252.5 million.

AMES’ NEW LISTING: The common stock of Ames Department Stores Inc. began trading Monday on the Nasdaq National Market. The stock had traded on the Nasdaq Small Cap Market since December 1992. The listing gives Ames the advantage of multiple market makers that compete to offer the best bid and ask prices, and will provide brokers and others with immediate access to share prices throughout the trading day, the company said. Ames is the nation’s fifth largest discount chain with 305 stores and annual volume of $2.2 billion.