More than 3,500 stores could be closed within the year, in what some are coining the “retail apocalypse.”
Major retailers across the country have taken a hit as consumers shift their spending habits online in the age of e-commerce. In Ohio, at least 70 retail brick-and-mortar stores are set for closure, forcing thousands to look for new jobs.
Some closures started as early as late December, but most closures were announced in January at the end of the fiscal quarter. Then, a barrage of other store closures followed in the coming months. The impact of the closures is far-ranging, impacting the job market and retail destinations in Dayton, Springfield and Northern Cincinnati.
Some of the local closures include:
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• All locations — 250 in total — of The Limited closed by mid-January in Ohio and across the U.S. Locally, stores at The Greene in Beavercreek, The Liberty Center in Liberty Twp., and two malls in Cincinnati all closed — and offered up to 90 percent off merchandise before filing for bankruptcy. The closures impacted up to 4,000 jobs nationwide. The brand, which had at least nine locations in Ohio, also shut down its retail website.
• Family Christian, a Christian gift and bookstore chain, announced in late February that it would close all 240 of its stores nationwide. The chain has 12 locations in Ohio, including ones in Beavercreek, Miamisburg, Springdale and Mason. Family Christian President Chuck Bengochea said poor sales contributed to the decision, after the company had two “very difficult” years after filing bankruptcy.
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“Despite improvements in product assortment and the store experience, sales continued to decline. In addition, we were not able to get the pricing and terms we needed from our vendors to successfully compete in the market. We have prayerfully looked at all possible options, trusting God’s plan for our organization, and the difficult decision to liquidate is our only recourse,” Bengochea said.
• RadioShack announced it was filing bankruptcy again, after filing back in 2015. This time, the electronics retailer said it would close 552 stores, including more than 30 in Ohio. Locally, one location in Kettering will close and another one in Springfield will also shut down. Several stores in Columbus and Cincinnati also made the list of impacted locations. Stores are having major sales, and the retailer is offering 60 percent off of some merchandise online.
• J.C. Penney will close four stores in Ohio, including locations in St. Mary’s, New Philadelphia, Richmond Heights and Findlay. The struggling retail, which will continue to operate 900 stores, cut its brick-and-mortar locations by 138. That impacted 5,000 workers nationwide, including hundreds in Ohio.
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Macy’s will close three stores in Ohio; Kmart will close six in the state; Sears will close four; and BCBGMAXAZRIA will close a store in Monroe and has already closed another in Jeffersonville.
“The steps we are taking now, to address the shift in customer shopping patterns and the growth of online shopping, will allow us to focus on our partner relationships, digital, e-commerce, selected retail locations, and wholesale and licensing arrangements,” said Marty Staff, interim chief executive officer for BCBG.
Other retailers like Bebe, Crocs, GameStop, American Apparel, Guess and Gander Mountain will also shut down stores throughout the country. More locations could likely close in Ohio, but some retailers have not announced what locations will be impacted by downsizing.
Gordon Gough, president and CEO of the Ohio Council for Retail Merchants, said some consumers are choosing to make transactions online and that impacts the store footprint for various retailers and companies.
“When you’re talking about sales that go to online-only retailers that don’t have presence here, that’s a shift in consumer demand,” Gough told this news organization. “Will it have an impact on the local economies? Sure.”
In February, retail industry employment decreased by 31,300 jobs from the previous month. However, February retail sales also grew slightly, by just 0.2 percent compared to January. That however, was not reflected in many store sales.
Clothing, general merchandise, electronics, furniture and sporting goods all saw decreases in sales compared to January. Some saw slight increases compared to the past year, according to the National Retail Federation.
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Online and other non-store sales increased by 1.2 percent over the previous month, and more than 8 percent year-over-year.
“While consumer spending in the first quarter has been erratic and most often weak, it registers positive improvement as the year continues,” said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF chief economist.
While the closure of stores have an impact on retail jobs and state sales tax contributions, economists say the retail omnichannel is still bringing in plenty of revenue. That means stores are bringing in revenue through websites, phone applications, catalogues and traditional brick-and-mortar retail.So, what is the trick to store survival? Retail experts say it’s all about making shopping a destination experience now. Target Corp. is responding to consumer demand by redesigning hundreds of its store, investing billions of dollars into infrastructure improvements.
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The redesign could hit 600 stores by 2018, according to Brian Cornell, Target’s chairman and CEO. That includes dedicated parking where workers will bring out online orders, and workers will also have new technology that will allow them to search inventory and take payment from a mobile point-of-sale system from the sales floor.
“With our next generation of store design, we’re investing to take the Target shopping experience to the next level by offering more elevated product presentations and a number of time-saving features,” Cornell said.
Locally, shopping centers are also trying to lure in customers with special events and entertainment. Kristie Miller, general manager of the Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek, told this news organization that they are offering free events for every type of customers — for adults and children.
“I think in this Internet age, we have to set ourselves apart,” she said. “We have to offer things that online shopping can’t. There are so many things you can do at the mall that you can’t do online, and that encourages people to come out to the center. We know we need a combination of retail, entertainment, dining and events.”
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