- Headquarters: Norwalk, CT
- President: Warren D. Feldberg
- Employees: 22,000
- Stores: 145
- Slogan: Bring home the difference
- Founded: 1951
- Closed: 1999
Unfortunately, I have never visited a Caldor store before. I have learned about the chain online and through a past co-worker of mine who worked there. Apparently Caldor was a neat discount store chain. It had about 145 stores in 9 states of the east coast at the end. Looking at pictures of Caldor stores of the past, one could see that they were standing out of the crowd of aging discount stores. Caldor had modern-looking stores, nice logo and color scheme. Even if the chain was larger than the 105-store Bradlees, they bankrupted sooner due to increased competition from Walmart and others. 22,000 employees lost their job in 1999. Caldor only had one store in New Hampshire, in Bedford near Manchester.
Caldor was founded in 1951 by Carl and Dorothy Bennett, who combined their first names to form "Caldor'' and opened one small store in Port Chester, N.Y. The Bennetts sold Caldor to Associated Dry Goods Corp., and in 1986, ADG merged with the May Department Stores Co. In 1991, Caldor went public and grew into a company with $2.5 billion in annual sales. In later years, Caldor failed to distinguish itself from other regional discounters, like Ames Department Stores, and couldn't compete with retail giants like Walmart, Kmart and Target. Caldor once had 166 stores and 24,000 employees.
Caldor's slide into liquidation was nothing if not gradual. When it entered Chapter 11 in September 1995, the move was widely viewed as strategic, a way to deal with vendors and factors that had grown nervous concerning Northeastern discount chains in the wake of Bradlees' bankruptcy filing, and to ensure adequate stocks for the Christmas season. Shortly before its filing, Caldor's balance sheet included $1.2 billion in assets and $883 million in liabilities. In February 1998, Caldor announced they would close twelve stores.
In February of 1999, it was the end of the road for the 4th. largest retail chain in America. Caldor's 22,000 workers took home pink slips for their trouble. 145 stores in nine states were put up for lease. After 48 years, and annual sales of $2.49 billion, the going out of business sales at Caldors began.
Ironically, Caldor's one-time sister chain under the May Co. umbrella, Venture Stores, had a few months earlier announced its liquidation owing to myriad problems that it could not overcome. Some observers on that fall morning believed that similar challenges still faced Caldor. Yet here, once again, as Caldor was gearing up for a 1999 turnaround and perhaps anticipated celebrating a half-century of retailing in 2001, the same old story is being told about a retailer once hailed for its success and innovation that fought like a champion to survive.
A Caldor cart seen at Building 19 in Nashua NH.