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President of HomeClub Steps Down

TIMES STAFF WRITER

HomeClub Inc. officials confirmed Monday that John R. Chase has abruptly resigned as president of the discount home products retail chain.

Chase, who started with HomeClub only nine months ago, cited “family considerations” as the reason for his resignation, according to an official at HomeClub’s parent firm. His departure is the latest in a string of management turnovers at the company, which has had four presidents in five years.

The home improvement industry has been marked by recent turbulence. Heavy competition and razor-thin profit margins have taken a toll on such retailers as HomeClub, Home Depot, Builders Emporium, Builders Square and National Lumber.

Fountain Valley-based National Lumber recently sought protection from its creditors under a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.

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James Halpin, president of the BJ’s Wholesale Club membership discount store chain, based in Framingham, Mass., was named to replace Chase. The change was disclosed by John F. Levy, president of Waban Inc., the parent company of both HomeClub and BJ’s.

An executive at one of HomeClub’s competitors, who asked that his name not be used, said the management change at HomeClub could prove to be a shrewd move. Halpin is generally regarded as one of the best managers at Waban, he said.

“This is their ace in the hole,” the executive said. “This is the best guy the company has got.” Halpin’s task will be to win back business lost to archrival Home Depot, based in Atlanta.

HomeClub has undertaken an aggressive expansion program since its founding in 1983. In March, the chain opened its 25th store in Southern California, a massive 103,000-square-foot facility in Laguna Niguel. In all, HomeClub operates 59 stores throughout the West.

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Unlike Home Depot and the others, HomeClub is a membership home products center that also is open to the general public. For an annual fee ranging between $10 and $15, members receive a 5% discount on their purchases. The membership system is designed to give HomeClub an up-to-date mailing list and breed customer loyalty.


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