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Big Lots Stores to buy Commerce Corp. inventory

Big Lots Stores Inc. has agreed to purchase inventory from the financially ailing Commerce Corp. for an amount expected to top $6 million, according to recent bankruptcy court documents.

The entire proceeds are slated to go to M&T Bank, which was owed $17.9 million by Commerce in principal alone as of late February, court documents said.

Creditors of Commerce filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition last month against the Curtis Bay-based distributor of lawn and garden supplies. Commerce, with roots going back to 1923, employed more than 350 workers at its height and pulled in about $200 million in annual sales.

About 20 percent of sales came from products by The Scotts Co., which in December ended its distribution relationship with Commerce, according to court documents. That led other creditors to stop extending credit to Commerce.

Commerce said it has been conducting an orderly liquidation ever since, and as of late last month employed 31 workers. The company also reported in court documents that it agreed in January to sell the assets of its Good Tidings division to Arett Sales Corp., with the proceeds going to M&T.

Commerce CEO Richard Lessans could not be reached for comment.

eileen.ambrose@baltsun.com

twitter.com/eambrose

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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