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COLUMBIA, S.C. - Fred's, a longtime chain of discount stores popular in the South, announced it is closing all of its locations, including several in South Carolina.

Fred's is closing its doors permanently after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to a news release from the chain.

A "wind-down" has begun, and all of the remaining Fred's stores are expected to close in the next 60 days, according to the release.

Fred's has 10 South Carolina locations, including stores in Kershaw, Bamberg, Greenwood and Varnville.

The chain has been rapidly downsizing since February, reducing its number of stores from 568 to about 80 prior to the bankruptcy announcement, USA Today reported. Those stores were located in 15 states in the Southeast, according to the newspaper.

"Despite our team's best efforts, we were not able to avoid this outcome," Fred's CEO Joe Anto said in the news release. "I want to thank all of our employees for their hard work and continued support of the Company as we wind-down our operations."

Information on when the SC stores will shutter their doors for good was not available. Messages left with the Kershaw store were not immediately answered.

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For the Fred's with pharmacies, like the Kershaw location, the company said it will continue to fill prescriptions until closing.

Court filings show Fred's stores are located in towns with populations less than 15,000, USA Today reported.

It is another blow for Midlands residents as Fred's becomes the latest retailer to limit shopping options in some areas.

A Columbia Save-A-Lot grocery store recently closed, creating a "food desert" for residents in that area, The State reported.

Founded in 1947, Fred's described itself as a "unique discount value store," which offers "value-priced everyday items, along with terrific deals on closeout merchandise."

It declared bankruptcy after being beaten in the marketplace by similar stores like TJX (TJ Maxx, Marshall's and Home Goods), Ross and Burlington, according to Forbes, which forecast doubt on the future of other stores with Midlands locations, including Ollie's, Tuesday Morning, and Big Lots.

Visit The State (Columbia, S.C.) at www.thestate.com

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