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Several local stores closing their doors

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Several popular franchises on the island are closing their doors, leaving to some speculate if the closures are a sign of the economic times. "Unfortunately, the stores in island will close its doors come April," Blockbuster store manager Kevin Taitague told KUAM News begrudgingly. He says this their valued customers will no longer be able to rent videos from the Tamuning and Dededo locations after this weekend.

"To our members we appreciate the patronage and sorry we are closing this doors at this time," he added. "Both stores leases expire in April, so I believe that's the reason both stores why maybe both stores is closing its doors."

The same goes for Planet Hollywood, as a lease expires with the DFS Galleria this month. TGI Friday's in Hagatna has closed its doors. General manager Maria Omanbac says three years ago, the franchise decided to expand with a second restaurant in the island's capitol when there was significant talk of the military buildup. "Because it's closer to the Navy base and our market was targeted for local and military market so now we have all heard the military is not going to really going to come in."

Omanbac says it's been a struggle for the last two years, saying, "The market that we were looking towards when opening this restaurant didn't really come in for the past two years that we've been open."

While the decision was made to close the restaurant, employees won't have to worry about being left jobless. "All the employees are still going to have a job and we transferred everyone down in Tumon and the only difference is we closed this establishment," she said.

Are the closures a sign of what the economy will be for the rest of the year? According to chief economist Gary Hiles, not necessarily. "What a lot of people don't realize is that of the approximately 2,600 businesses on Guam every year a little more than 200 either change their business firm or close down and they're replaced with a couple hundred new businesses," he explained.

That's evidenced in the recent opening of The Gap, Aerosoles, Beauty Bar and other smaller shops around the island. Hiles says he anticipates that the island's economy will actually pick up this year as tourist arrivals rebound, noting, "The forecast for 2012-2013 is pretty stable economy in terms of the number of jobs. We don't expect a significant increase or decrease. It could go up a little or down a little depending on how well the factors play out."

Those factors, he says, include new construction projects such as the naval hospital and the new private sector hospital. "The fuel could also be a factor if the fuel prices go up considerably more that could impact the price of travel and could be a negative influence on the number of tourist arrivals," said Hiles.

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