Ripple Effect

To some observers, it seemed like déjà vu when Friedman's Inc., the Savannah, Ga.–based chain that at its peak operated more than 700 stores in 22 southeastern and midwestern states, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Jan. 14. Although Friedman's route to bankruptcy involved some unique twists and turns, it's reminiscent of the woes that have befallen other large jewelry chains, including Zale (filed Chapter 11 in January 1992), Service Merchandise (filed in March 1999 and went out of business in 2002), and Samuels (which has been in bankruptcy court three times since the early 1990s, most recently in 2003).Friedman's—the third-largest U.S. retail jewelry chain, behind Zale and Signet's Sterling Jewelers—is now attempting to pick up the pieces. In mid-February the company, which serves low- to middle-income consumers, announced plans to close 165 stores (before filing

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