Bogus e-mail claims store closings
By Bill Kirk
A bogus e-mail flooding the Internet is warning consumers around the country, including many in the Merrimack Valley, that 30 major retailers will close scores of stores by the end of December and that shoppers had better use the gift cards from those stores before it's too late.
"It seems there are lots of stores that are closing due to the 'recession' and the fact that people are not shopping," says the e-mail, which has spread like a virus as people forward it to friends and family. "If you have any 'gift cards' from these stores make sure you use them or you will lose them!"
The e-mail, which is of unknown origin, also is being posted on some Web sites as news. It says that the stores have informed the "Security Exchange of closing plans between October 2008 and January 2009."
There is no such thing as the "Security Exchange," although the Securities and Exchange Commission does exist. It does not, however, keep track of store closings.
Much of the information in the e-mail is outdated, and some of it contains inflated and flatly erroneous claims about store closings.
For example, it mentions that Ann Taylor would be closing 117 stores nationwide. However, that series of closings was announced nearly 11 months ago, in January 2008, as part of a corporatewide restructuring. The local store, in Rockingham Mall in Salem, N.H., is not closing, according to a clerk at the store. A corporate spokeswoman did not return calls.
Another women's clothing store, Cache, was listed as having plans to close all of its roughly 300 stores. Cache did close 20 stores earlier this year as part of a restructuring, according to a spokeswoman, but has no plans to close others.
According to a posting on the Web site Snopes.com, which tracks the veracity of Web-based and other common urban myths, the e-mail is "partly true."
"Although cutbacks are in the cards for most of the retailers mentioned in the message ... none of them has announced plans to completely shutter their operations by the end of 2008," the Web site reported, citing numerous legitimate media outlets as sources for the article.
The Disney store at the Rockingham Mall in Salem, N.H., will not be closing, despite what the e-mail stated.
Melissa Rozansky, a spokeswoman for Disney Store USA, said the information about Disney closing 98 stores is "very old."
"We closed stores earlier this year during a transition from being a licensed business separate from the Walt Disney family to becoming part of the Disney family," she said. "We took the stores back into the fold in May of this year, and we did close around 100 stores. We have no current plan or announcement to close 98 stores."
Rozansky said she has a Google alert set for whenever stories come up about Disney stores, and that for the last six weeks, stories about the company closing stores have been popping up repeatedly.
More recently, she got the e-mail about the gift cards.
"Somebody I know sent me that," she said. "I said, 'What the heck is this about?'"
She noted that she received a call from a newspaper in the middle of the country last week doing a story about the bogus e-mail.
"It's not true for Disney stores," she said. "It's completely inaccurate."
Other stores mentioned in the e-mail include Ethan Allen, which has 300 stores around the country, including one in North Andover and another in Plaistow. The e-mail claimed that the company was closing 12 stores, something the furniture chain did last January. No further closings are planned.
Talbots, which owns the J. Jill brand of stores, are supposedly closing both chains, according to the e-mail. Not true, says a spokeswoman.
The Hingham, Mass.-based company did close 78 Talbots stores late last year and earlier this year, including 66 Talbots kids' stores and 12 Talbot's men's stores, but has no plans to close anymore of its stores, according to Julie Lorigan, vice president for media relations.
What is true is that Talbots earlier this year announced plans to sell its J. Jill chain of stores, but not to close any of them.
Bob Cuomo, dean of the Girard School of Business and International Commerce at Merrimack College, said that many companies are retrenching, but that none of the ongoing rumors about the closing of Brookstone or layoffs at Lord & Taylor or even the shutdown of Talbots have been substantiated.
"It really hurts the economy," he said, noting that "people hear rumors about layoffs, they become more pessimistic and it becomes very damaging because then they don't spend any money because they start to worry about their own jobs."
He said the e-mail and stories are further evidence that the Internet can be a dubious source of information.