Grand Forks & Retail

Clearing out more of the questions asked on the radio lately. The announcement of the closure of the Macy’s in the local mall set some callers into fits. Their issues and questions ranged from: Is this a harbinger of future closures in Grand Forks and/or Fargo; to: this mall has inadequate numbers of stores and the wrong kind. There were lots of other issues raised too, so let’s clear a few of these things up right now.

I’m amazed that Grand Forks kept some of these retail establishments this long. These stores have their own formulas for where they want to locate stores and it includes factors such as income, population dynamics (age structure and the like), growth, real estate costs, and so on. It should not be a surprise that, at times, a community like Grand Forks will fall out of favor with one or more of these national retailers, especially when there is another location just 79 miles down the road. To those complaining I would say, put yourself in charge of determining store locations for just a minute: How would you not see those two stores as draining sales from each other?

Now is this the beginning of a retail apocalypse? Probably not. You would need many more closures before you really got concerned about that, but it pays to be vigilant. Macy’s press release talked about dedicating resources to online shopping, which is a space that requires significant investment by many retailers if they want to compete with the likes of an Amazon.com.

To those suggesting a the mall requires a different mix of stores to be competitive. Okay. But realize there needs to be matching priorities here. The mall also needs to fit the profile for what the retailer wants as well.

I think better questions to ask here are whether the age of the anchor store is over for these flat malls? Also, is it just a ludicrous scale that a mall needs to achieve (like the Mall of America) in order to be successful now?

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