Small businesses and the changing retail landscape

From one generation to the next, life changes.

For better.

For worse.

And there certainly is change afoot — in this case it’s growing in momentum and intensity with each passing season.

It’s the loss of our bricks-and-mortar retail stores.

Isn’t it sad that Sears is closing its anchor stores in both the Lycoming and Nittany Malls to our east and to our west?

Isn’t it sad that those stores will soon be just empty space in our region’s coveted malls?

Isn’t it sad that there will be yet another lost experience for all of us to just go store shopping for the holidays or anytime?

Isn’t it sad that these two stores will no longer provide full-time, part-time and seasonal employment to many in our region?

Kmart. Macy’s. J.C. Penney’s.

The list in our region and across the nation grows.

The big-box and chain-store retail apocalypse seems to be in full swing in 2017.

Brands that look too big to fail such as Payless, Rue21, and RadioShack are among the 300 plus, national retailers filing bankruptcies this year.

The rapid growth of e-commerce and mobile-virtual shopping as the horsemen of the apocalypse, analysts say.

A closer look at the industry’s health, however, reveals that the main victims are big box stores.

Brick and mortar stores are shuttering at record numbers this year.

The number of shops shutting down in 2017 is greater than all reported closures from 2003 to 2006 combined.

According to Moody’s, about $70 billion worth of retail leases are expiring in 2018.

At that time, several retailers are expected to allow their leases to expire and expand their presence online, FitSmallBusiness.com says.

Left standing are small business owners like Jennifer Rauchau, owner of the Sears franchise retail store at 559 High St. in Lock Haven, featured on our Page A1 today.

Of course, it depends on a lot of factors, but many small businesses are actually thriving, even as online and mobile shopping continue to grow, says FitSmallBusiness.com.

So does this all mean the rebirth of Main Streets?

To a large extent — again — it depends on where you live.

It depends on the value that communities — local residents — place on Main Street.

It depends on how attractive communities (and their political leaders) make their Main Street to private investors, including the regulatory and tax burdens that increase overhead.

And ultimately, it depends on the investment communities and private investors make on Main Streets.

There needs to be a collective vision.

More on that later.

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