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Wisconsin Retailer Shopko Closing Stores, Hampering Pharmacy Access In Some Areas

Chain Expected To Declare Bankruptcy

Shopko storefront
Tony Webster (CC-BY)

Ashwaubenon-based retail chain Shopko is closing stores in Wisconsin and several other states and is reportedly facing the possibility of bankruptcy.

The retailer owes a pharmaceutical supplier McKesson $67 million. The Green Bay Press Gazette reported that an attorney for the supplier said in court that Shopko might file for bankruptcy this week.

The company has more than 360 stores, including many in smaller towns across much of the upper Midwest.

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Hart Posen, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business, said Shopko couldn’t compete with huge retailers like Target, Walmart and online giant Amazon.

Shopko had been publicly held until 2005 when Sun Capital Partners bought it for $1.1 billion. Posen said the firm “tried to fix them by moving toward these smaller format stores, but they are still saddled with well over 100 large-format stores and that is a business in which they simply cannot compete.”

Posen said Shopko’s strategy of serving small cities with its “hometown” stores didn’t pay off and is now leaving some customers without access to their prescriptions. The company shut down its pharmacies earlier this month. That has left smaller communities, like Seymour, Wisconsin, in the lurch.

Jim Wurl, a retired pharmacist who volunteers with a senior’s group in Seymour, said Shopko was the last pharmacy in town.

“If you get an infection, there is nothing in town. Some of these people are not mobile. They do not have vehicles anymore,” Wurl said. “They are to the point where they rely on other people to get them to the doctor’s office.”

Wurl said a pharmacy in Pulaski, a 15-mile drive from Seymour, may offer delivery. No one from that pharmacy was available to say how that service would work. Wurl said people would have to go to Pulaski, Green Bay, or Appleton to get their medications.

Online pharmaceutical sales are an option, but Wurl said rural America often doesn’t have reliable internet access. Even if the service was available he said many people he works with wouldn’t use it.

“Many of these people do not have computers,” Wurl said. “They do not feel comfortable using computers.” He added that when it comes to medications, “They are used to the face-to-face interactions.”

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