Northern Berkshire Healthcare (NBH) will close the Women’s Exchange consignment shop, as well as eliminate other services in the area, as part of several planned budget cuts in response to poor revenues. This action is part of a series of downsizing operations that are expected to save the center about $1 million in spending. NBH has promised severance pay and employee healthcare assistance to all Women’s Exchange employees who will lose their jobs due to the downsizing. The shop is expected to close on December 13th.
The Women’s Exchange has a well-lauded reputation for attracting customers of all backgrounds and incomes from both Williamstown and North Adams. The store was established in 1957 to offer affordable apparel for visiting nurses in Williamstown. Over the span of five decades, the Women’s Exchange has developed into a store that sells a vast repertoire of high quality and low cost apparel for men, women and children, in addition to houseware and other necessities. Despite its success, the Women’s Exchange remains true to its non-profit nature with a largely volunteer staff, whose revenues are sent to help fund health services and programs in the Northern Berkshires. The store is also notable for the enthusiasm and perseverance of the shop’s staff in contributing to the local community.
The decision to close the shop was based on the fact that it has not reached an adequate profit for the last few years. “The Women’s Exchange has been an extension of NBH for about 10 years, and for some of those years it has been able to contribute to the North Adams Regional Hospital (NARH) and to the Visiting Nurses Association,” Paul Hopkins, director of community relations at NBH, said. “For the last several years, when you include all of the expenses, it has operated at a loss.”
Hopkins explained that as NBH looked into their projected budgets for the future, “We realized we had to make sure that our scarce resources are used to provide health care services to the community.”
The NBH spends about $2 million annually to continue the Women’s Exchange as well as the Northern Berkshire Family Practice Center and the Visiting Nurses Association & Hospice (VNA) in the Berkshire area. After looking over the budget, the organization made the decision to consolidate these services into one central space on the NBH campus. The Northern Berkshire Family Practice is set to relocate to NARH in a few months, while the VNA will move at the start of the coming year.
Nevertheless, Hopkins acknowledged the difficulty of the decision to close the beloved store. “It was a difficult decision … [the Women’s Exchange is] an institution that has been in this community for many years, but as difficult a decision as it was, it was necessary,” he said.