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Fields stores to close in Hay River and Fort Smith
Retail outlets to be shut down by fall

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Friday, February 10, 2012

The NWT's only two Fields stores - in Hay River and Fort Smith - will be closed by the fall.

NNSL photo/graphic

The Fields store in Fort Smith moved to a new leased building in 2010. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

The coming closures are the result of plans by the stores' owner, the Hudson's Bay Company, to shut down all 167 Fields outlets in Canada.

"After careful consideration, Hudson's Bay Company has announced we will wind down our Fields store operations," said Tiffany Bourre, the firm's manager of external communications in Toronto. "In December, we announced the closure of 26 Ontario Fields store locations, which will close in February 2012. We will wind down the remaining 141 store locations across the country in phases, with closures complete by fall 2012."

Bourre explained the move is a strategic decision to focus on growing the Hudson's Bay Company's other banners The Bay, Lord & Taylor, and Home Outfitters.

There are as yet no specific dates for closure of the Fort Smith and Hay River stores, which operate in leased buildings.

As a private company, Fields is not revealing how many workers will be affected.

The coming closures are not going over well in Hay River or Fort Smith.

Bonnie Dawson, a Fields customer in Hay River, called the decision absolutely disgusting.

"The store provides everything basically for reasonable prices," she said. "There's no other retailer in this town like this store."

Dawson also lamented the fact the closure will put people out of work, inconvenience customers and create another empty building in Hay River.

"We don't need closures," she said. "We need to keep our people working."

Another Fields customer in Hay River is Mayor Kelly Schofield, who was spotted buying pots and pans.

Schofield, who described himself as a regular customer of the store, said the closure will be unfortunate for many reasons, both for the employees and the town.

"We've seen a lot of stores close down here already," he said. "It's just one more hit to the local economy and one more reason for locals to shop south, unfortunately."

The mayor said the disappearance of Fields might mean people from other NWT communities would also head south to shop instead of coming to Hay River.

"I don't know if there's any cure to this situation, unfortunately, because it is across Canada," he said.

However, Schofield hopes that, when Fields closes in Hay River, some local entrepreneur might see an opportunity and fill the gap.

The mayor estimated about five full-time positions will be lost to the community.

The Fields store in Hay River opened in 1991.

In Fort Smith, Jane Dragon is also disappointed the store in that community will be closing.

"It's going to be very sad for lots of people," she said, noting many shop there because the clothing is so inexpensive.

Dragon also noted Fields moved into a new building not that long ago.

"It was a bonus to the town," she said of the building, which opened in 2010.

Dragon often shops at Fields, especially for sewing supplies.

Fort Smith Mayor Janie Hobart said the store closure is of great concern in the community.

"Many people shop there. It's very affordable," she said, adding the store is especially valuable for families having to clothe growing families. "Not having that type of store in the community can put a burden on lower-income families or people with lots of little ones."

Hobart said the closure is a national decision involving all Fields stores, which leaves a single community unable to prevent it.

Fields has operated in Fort Smith since 1993 and employs between five and eight people depending on the season.

There will be help for the affected workers, Bourre said. "We have a comprehensive career transition program for impacted associates that will offer them training, support services and transition expertise."

The managers of the Hay River and Fort Smith stores declined to comment on the closures since they were instructed to direct all media inquiries to head office.

Along with the NWT and Ontario, there are Fields stores in all four western provinces.

The first Fields opened in Vancouver in 1950.

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