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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Business Tuesday

I found myself with a little free time on a recent icy morning, so I ventured out after the temperature came up and some of the ice melted.  I ventured in to the Wyoming Valley Mall, a place I hadn't visited in months.  Big, bright, clean-- and a lot of empty spaces.  That includes the food court, which has always struggled.

At least, all the anchor stores are still there, which is more than can be said at a lot of malls.

Macy's, Sears, and KMart started making news right after Christmas because they are closing stores.

Macy's is in the troubled "big department store" sector.  There are two Macy's near my home.  Both are very nice stores.  I'm a frequent browser, rare purchaser.  I can get the same stuff, cheaper, elsewhere.

Sears and KMart are in a different category altogether.  Other companies ate Sears' lunch.  Home Depot and Lowes do the hardware, appliance, and outdoor stuff better.  There are plenty of places to buy clothes.

I don't know how KMart has held on this long.  It does some things well, but not many.  Walmart rendered Kmart irrelevant, and KMart cut its own throat by failing to invest in its stores.  They're not fun and attractive places to shop.  Management can keep cutting, but I don't think they can cut their way out of this one.

Above all else, the internet makes things so darn easy.  A few clicks, and what I want shows up at my front door.  Yeah, it's not as much fun, and there are times you really just have to get out of the house.  There will always be a place for brick and mortar stores, but only the strong and smart will survive.

I read where Penney's CEO predicts some store closures this year.  I can't say I'm surprised.  "Big department stores" is a tough business.

A writer for PC Magazine crunched the numbers.  He didn't blame the internet for damaging big department stores.  he blamed the stores themselves and a "stale" shopping experience.  I get that.  We want to be entertained these days.  Walk into a mall or department store, and it looks the same as it did the day before, the week before, the month before, the year before...  Sears and KMart are especially guilty of that, and now they are paying the price.

I know people who work in retail.  It's a tough job.  But, how many times have we been in a store that's understaffed, and some of the people there apparently would prefer to be somewhere else?   it drives people to the internet.  No surly workers to deal with.   Labor costs a lot of money.  If you improve the shopping experience, the rest should fall in to line.