New Cutline: Dozens of stores have closed in the Dayton area over the past year, but area experts said the market is still healthy because the area is filling those locations. Danis construction works on the Sears box at the Mall at Fairfield Commons. STAFF PHOTO / HOLLY SHIVELY
Photo: Holly Shively
Photo: Holly Shively

Near record number of U.S. stores closing, but Dayton market healthy

A record number of stores in the U.S. are expected to close this year and nearly double last year’s count, but area real estate leaders said Dayton’s market is healthy.

More than 7,037 stores have already closed or been set to close this year, surpassing the full year total of 5,864 closures in all of 2018, according to Coresight Research, a firm that studies the retail market.

The nation is expected to reach 12,000 closures by the end of the year, which will surpass the 2017 record of 8,139 closures by nearly 4,000.

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“It’s a challenge for the community. You don’t want empty storefronts. And it’s a challenge for other local businesses. They don’t want to be in an area where there’s a bunch of empty stores,” said Alex Boehnke, spokesman for the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants.

But store closures don’t define the health of the overall retail market, he said.

“Actual company earnings and consumer confidence are real indicators of the health of the industry; those remain strong,” Boehnke said. “The economy continues to hum. Consumer sentiment is still high. We’ve seen some pretty strong earnings reports from a lot of the big retailers.”

The Dayton area has suffered dozens of store closures over the last year, including all Elder-Beerman and Sears stores, Payless ShoeSource locations, the Burlington in Trotwood, Old Navy and Maurices at the Dayton Mall, Gymboree and Gap at The Greene Towne Center, Toys R Us last June and other mall stores including Crazy 8, Jeggings Park, Locker Room by Lids, Treasure Trove, Jos, Go Calendar, Charlotte Russe and Trendzy.

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Other local businesses including Moussaian Rugs, Dusty Miller Mercantile and Jimmy Modern have also closed.

But the area has had success in filling those closing stores, said Andrew Feinblatt, a principal with OnSite Retail Group, which helps connect local retail and restaurant tenants with real estate.

Ross Dress for Less is opening two locations, one in Beavercreek and one filling a yearslong vacant hh gregg store at the Dayton Mall. Burlington also recently opened a store in Huber Heights and will open another in Beavercreek later this year. Off-price stores like Ross and Burlington are continuing to expand and look for more locations in the Dayton market, said Tim Albro, a partner with Crest Commercial Realty who works with property management.

Furniture Fair recently announced plans to open in a former Toys R Us and Big Sandy will open in the former Elder-Berman Furniture store. The RoomPlace will open a store in the Dayton Mall where Old Navy and Payless closed and is splitting the old Sears box at the Mall at Fairfield Commons with new Round1 Entertainment.

The malls have found other ways to fill in-line spaces with family entertainment concepts The Yard and stores like locally-founded Rose & Remington, BoxLunch, Aerie, Forever 21, Cozy Melts and City Gear.

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That’s the difference between the Dayton area and others, when stores do close, property owners find ways to fill them, Albro said.

“I think it allows for some opportunity and creativity for businesses that might not otherwise have that opportunity,” Boehnke said. “They’re going to be able to probably get in that space at a more attractive price because obviously that landlord and those associated with the area are going to want to fill that vacancy.”

There are also many other new concepts in other states that haven’t yet made it to Dayton, and closing retail space gives opportunities for them to expand, Feinblatt said.

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“If something good closes, a good location, there’s somebody there to back fill it. I’m seeing emails, not just from my own company, but from other companies with concepts expanding into the region,” he said. “Retail is not dead, it’s just evolving. And I just feel like there’s new concepts that are popping up elsewhere. They’re fresh and growing.”

Dayton also didn’t over retail as much as some other parts of the United States, Feinblatt said. Other markets like Cincinnati and Columbus have some malls that are struggling as a result of too much retail real estate where newer malls are thriving and pulling tenants from older malls.

The Dayton area has only two traditional malls and two outdoor shopping centers that offer different stores and don’t typically compete as directly.

Online sales also contribute to some stores closing, Albro said, but physical retail will always be important.

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