California shoppers are expressing sadness over the closure of 99 Cents Only Stores, which have long served as a lifeline for families on a budget

Shoppers are rushing to their local 99 Cents Only Stores to take advantage of last-minute deals before the stores close for good. Following in the footsteps of fellow discount retailer Dollar Tree, which plans to close 1,000 stores nationwide over the next few years, the 99 Cents Only brand is set to shut down its 371 locations across California, Arizona, Nevada, and Texas by June 5.

At a 99 Cents store on Arlington Avenue in Riverside, shoppers were met with signs outside the building announcing the closure and offering discounts of up to 30%. Kimberly Harrison, a Riverside resident, expressed sadness about the impending closures, noting the impact it will have on older folks and mothers who rely on the store for affordable shopping.

The closure of 99 Cents stores and other discount retailers is particularly challenging for those already struggling to afford food. In the Inland Empire, more than 400,000 residents are facing food insecurity, while in Los Angeles County, nearly 1 million households are experiencing food insecurity. These numbers have been on the rise since the pandemic, attributed to inflation and increasing poverty levels.

The challenges in the retail environment, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, have significantly hindered the company’s ability to operate, according to Mike Simoncic, 99 Cents’ interim CEO. The chain, which has been in operation for over 40 years, has faced lasting difficulties.

Despite the closures, there is hope for some locations to be purchased and saved by Mark Miller, CEO of Pic ‘N’ Save Bargains. At the 99 Cents store on Arlington, Riverside, shoppers like Robert and Juanita Fernandez expressed sadness over the closure, as they frequented the store weekly for groceries and produce. Similarly, shopper January Patterson lamented the closure as she shopped for deals at the Pomona location on Arrow Highway.

SANTA MONICA, CA – APRIL 5, 2024 – – Nancy D. leaves the 99 Cent Only store with her purchases in Santa Monica on April 5, 2024. The stores will be closing soon. “It’s an enormous loss for people of limited income,” said Nancy D. who has been shopping at the store for over 20 years. (Genaro Molina)

“Sometimes, this store serves as a lifeline during tough times, like when your paycheck falls short,” Patterson said. “Especially for parents trying to put together a budget-friendly dinner for their kids. For many of us, this store plays a significant role in supporting our families.”

Dolores Bell, a Pomona resident, emphasized the importance of the store in her community, saying its closure is a significant loss.

“This is a huge setback for all of us. We can find items here that are too expensive elsewhere,” Bell said. “Don’t leave us, 99!”

Shoppers can find produce and supplies at 99 Cents stores for under a dollar, plus tax. While prices may vary, staples like flour can typically be found for $1.99 a bag. In comparison, a bag of flour at Safeway can range from $3 to $7.

The impact of the store closures goes beyond consumers. Tonya Johns, from People Helping People Financial Services, visited the Arlington Avenue store in Riverside to offer assistance to employees who will soon be unemployed. She mentioned that some employees were unaware of the impending closures.

In response to the closures, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn requested on April 9 that the departments of Economic Opportunity and Consumer and Business Affairs develop a plan to assist 99 Cents store employees.

Local food banks, such as Feeding America Riverside and San Bernardino, are also preparing for the closures and their impacts on their programs.

“We have a retail rescue program where we assign our nonprofit organizations to the stores to pick up still-safe-to-consume food that’s no longer suitable for the primary consumer,” said Vanesa Mercado, the food bank’s partner relations director. The program has grown in recent years, with more than 16 million pounds of food being rescued from retailers for use in food banks.

Recovery programs will assist many nonprofits in their hunger relief efforts, Mercado said, noting that Feeding America receives consistent donations from 99 Cents stores each week.

At the Pomona store on Arrow Highway, signs indicated the store’s closure, though shoppers were unsure of the exact date. The store was still well-stocked on April 10, but that could change as prices continue to drop on the already discounted merchandise.

Leonie Crouch, a Pomona resident, left the store with a few bags of goods.

“I’m trying to stock up while I still can,” Crouch said. “I guess I’ll go to Dollar Tree once this store closes.”

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