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OfficeMax to close Medford store

OfficeMax Inc. announced Monday it plans to close its Medford store within 90 days.

The 23,500-square-foot store in the South Gateway Shopping Center is one of two in Oregon, and one of 50 nationwide, being closed in response to a sagging office supply retail market and widespread economic slowdown, according to a company press release.

OfficeMax will also be closing its store in Salem, said company spokesman Steve Baisden.

The Cleveland-based retailer said its profitability was hampered in 2000 by major expenditures on new management systems and by severe weather in the Midwest and Northeast.

It also said the closure of 65 Office Depot stores, the retailer's main competitor in several regions, has flooded the market with cheap, close-out merchandise.

The Medford Office Depot store is not among those scheduled for closure.

OfficeMax opened its Medford store in April 1995 and employed 35 workers as of Monday. The company operates about 1,000 office supply stores throughout the country.

The main reason stores were closed is that the market changed in retail trading areas, Baisden said. That could include a location which was a hot spot several years ago that has fallen out of favor (with shoppers) for more popular areas.

The company scaled back plans to open 50 additional stores in 2001. It now plans to open 25, some of those in markets where stores are now being closed.

New store locations have not been announced, including whether OfficeMax will re-open in Medford. However, the company's press release identified major metropolitan areas as the most likely location of any re-openings.

The press release also said all new stores will be reduced in size by 15 percent, to reduce inventory and to move closer to a just-in-time distribution system.

OfficeMax employees in Medford will be offered job openings at other chain locations, or job search assistance and severance pay if no positions are available, Baisden said.

We don't like to see stores close, but we feel it's the right move for the company as a whole. We?ll attempt to make it as smooth a transition for (employees) as we can.

OfficeMax anticipates a one-time, after-tax charge to its fiscal 2000 fourth-quarter earnings of approximately $69 million ($111 million pre-tax) for costs associated with closing the 50 stores and vacating commercial leases.

The company set aside more money for lease dispositions than it had originally estimated because of what OfficeMax maintains is a glut of retail space on the market.

As a result ... of a number of store closings announced during the past month by other retailers ... it will take longer to find other retailers to assume OfficeMax's leases at vacated locations.

OfficeMax's Medford closure is the latest of several retailers to depart the Rogue Valley. The Emporium and Montgomery Ward have announced their Medford stores will close this year. Ward's announcement was part of a nationwide closure of all its stores.

— Reach reporter at 776-4463, or e-mail .

Joyce Coleman and Nicholas Picerno, both of Jacksonville, were among the shoppers Monday at Medford?s OfficeMax, which is slated to close within 90 days. - Photo by Bob Pennell