Two more retailers announce store closures as online shopping continues to disrupt the market

 

Two retailers announced on Monday they will close hundreds of stores, possibly including Tyler locations. They were the latest in a long list of retailers to fall victim to the trend of increasing online shopping and decreasing foot traffic in malls.

Children’s retailer Gymboree, which has a store in Tyler’s Broadway Square Mall, has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will close up to 450 of its 1,281 stores, according to reports. No list of store closings has yet been made public, so it’s unclear if the Tyler location is on that list. The San Francisco-based retailer is also losing its CFO, as Andrew North announced his departure.

Also on Monday, Ann Taylor stores, which include the Loft, Lane Bryant and the Dress Barn, announced it will close more than 650 stores in the next two years. Ascena Retail Group is the parent company of those stores. It’s unclear whether the Tyler locations will be affected.

This is all part of a larger trend.

Macy’s was the first. In January, Macy’s announced it would close 68 stores, including the Tyler location. It had opened as Sanger-Harris in 1981 with much fanfare - there were three weeks of special events, including appearances by Gloria Vanderbilt, Kermit the Frog and Paddington Bear.

The Tyler store has been a Macy’s since 2006, but it struggled in recent years. 

A few weeks after the Macy’s announcement, Gordmans Stores Inc., the century-old discount department store chain, filed for bankruptcy with plans to liquidate its inventory and assets. That meant the Tyler store, which opened in The Village at Cumberland Park in 2014, had to close. It was the chain’s first Texas location.

And in March, the Tyler JC Penney location learned it’s not on the list of 168 stores to be closed in 2017, though the Athens, Marshall and Nacogdoches locations are. But that company is probably not through with its downsizing.

Finally, Sears announced in late March it has “substantial doubt” it can last much longer. That includes both Sears and Kmart, which it owns. Just last week, it announced the closing of 72 stores, including two in Texas - Texarkana and Sherman.

It’s not just online sales, one expert says. It’s also in how younger people view the shopping experience.

Robert Paul Jones is director of the Center for Retail Enterprises at UT Tyler.

“Ten percent of retail sales occur online,” he explained in a recent interview. “It’s an interesting phenomenon that such a small number can be driving the retail markets.”

And yet it does, largely because the millennial generation, with its growing share of the nation’s disposable income, are habituated to shopping online.

“Competitive shopping, loyalty and driving to a store are foreign to them,” Jones said. “Millennials are interested in an experience. They usually don’t go to a traditional retailer. They will search the internet to find the best deals and buy what they want online.”

They see shopping as something of an adventure, he said - they’re not interested in big stores with the same merchandise they can find in every other store.

This is a phenomenon that big retailers “haven’t gotten their arms around,” Jones said.

“Some smaller, locally owned brick-and-mortar stores in Tyler are doing a good job providing that experience shoppers are looking for,” he added. “That goes to artisan products like authentic parmesan cheese or vinegars. It’s also the equivalent of buying a Greenberg Smoked Turkey. When they have the experience, they will purchase things and not worry about shopping around.”

But it’s not hopeless for big retailers, Jones said. If they adapt, and offer the kind of experience shoppers are looking for, they can still thrive.

 

Twitter: @tmt_roy

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