HHGregg to fold, close Highland and Merrillville stores

About 50 shoppers on Friday morning enter the Hhgregg retail store in Merrillville to take advantage of holiday season sales. The Indianapolis-based chain is closing.

HHGregg, an Indiana retailer that once aspired to take Circuit City's place as the second largest home electronics retailer in the United States, will vanish from the Midwestern suburban landscape where it's been a staple after failing to find a buyer to take it out of bankruptcy.

The Indianapolis-based consumer electronics, appliances and furniture retailer plans to close all of its remaining big-box stores nationwide, including its locations in Highland, Merrillville and Orland Park. About 4,200 employees will be laid off.

“Since filing for financial protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy code on March 6, 2017, we have continued to fight for the future of our company," HHGregg President and CEO Bob Riesbeck said. "While we had discussions with more than 50 private equity firms, strategic buyers, and other investors, unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in our plan to secure a viable buyer of the business on a going-concern basis within the expedited timeline set by our creditors. We have, however, received and accepted a bid for liquidation of our assets."

Liquidation starts on Saturday. Tiger Capital Group, LLC and Great American Group, LLC will sell off merchandise, furniture, fixtures and equipment at HHGregg stores and warehouses.

HHGregg has 15 stores and a distribution center in the Chicagoland market, which it made a big push into after Circuit City went bankrupt and collapsed in 2009. In Northwest Indiana, it replaced the Borders in the Highland Grove Shopping Center and has a store at 2757 East 81st Ave. in Merrillville, in a strip mall just east of the Southlake Mall.

The company was founded 62 years ago, and grew into a regional behemoth with 220 stores in 19 states. It tried to distinguish itself from competitors with knowledgeable customer service and was known for advertising slogans such as "Gregg's got it" and "Price and Advice. Guaranteed." In recent years, it started devoting more floor space to selling furniture as it struggled to find a niche in a shifting retail landscape.

The retailer, which is headquartered on 96th Street on the North Side of Indianapolis, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March, when it announced it would close 88 stores nationwide, though none in the Region. At the time, a buyer was supposed to guide the struggling retailer back to solvency, but the deal fell through.

Online commerce has been killing brick-and-mortar businesses nationwide, and 2017 has been a devastating year for stores, retail jobs and commercial real estate. Retailers that have closed all or some of their stores in the Region and the south suburbs so far this year include MC Sports, Payless, Family Christian, Gordmans, The Limited, Wet Seal, Kmart, Sears Appliance and Hardware Store, Carson's Clearance Center and Gander Mountain. Macy's and JCPenney also are shuttering department stores around the country.

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.