AP NEWS

Our view: ShopKo closures part of national trend

March 26, 2019

If you’re wringing your hands about the closing of all ShopKo stores in the area, you’re not alone.

The loss of these stores, which largely serve rural America and small communities (you won’t find ShopKo stores in metro areas), is a blow to the retail landscape. It’s especially tough to swallow in Rochester, where several big-box retailers have closed their doors in the past year or so.

Luckily for shoppers in Rochester, there are still department stores, drug stores and supermarkets operating here. This is a major retail hub that retains a heathy outlook, despite several national chain store and restaurant closings.

But what about places like Kasson, where ShopKo’s relatively new Hometown concept store was the biggest retailer in town? Or consider dozens of other small towns across the Upper Midwest, where ShopKo was, if not the only game in town, at least a competitor that helped provide choices in products and pricing.

ShopKo, based in Wisconsin, had 15,000 employees companywide. The store closings are also distressing news for those people and their families.

There was some hope in January when ShopKo announced it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and close 250 of its 350 stores — and survive. But last week, the company announced that every single ShopKo store will close.

In other words, there was nothing specific about the Rochester, Kasson, Austin or Winona markets that caused the demise of ShopKo stores in those cities.

The company, according to Money magazine, was saddled with debt and a struggling rural economy. And, like so many brick-and-mortar retailers, ShopKo was battling the lure of shopping online — a siren song that has attracted many shoppers and helped spell the end of many local retailers.

Earlier this month, in fact, JC Penney, the Gap and Victoria’s Secret all announced they would close a total of about 300 stores. Some retail experts don’t expect Sears and Kmart to last through 2019, according to Money.

Who knows how many other retailers are on the endangered species list?

If you value stores in your hometown, then start shopping at those establishments, rather than online. Whether it’s a store that sells groceries, clothing, shoes, hardware or gifts, patronize the local retailer. Even a national chain store in your town pays taxes and wages locally.

Meanwhile, want a spot of good news on the retail front? Take a look at Eyota, where new owners are going to keep open the town’s only grocery store, which had been threatened with closure.

It’s one small store in one small town. In today’s difficult retail environment, though, we have to celebrate our victories when and where we can them.