Stores closing; Are more retailers at risk?

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There has been a slew of news as of late announcing the bankruptcy and subsequent closing of stores, including Sears at Woodland Mall, MC Sports, Family Christian Stores and Gordmans.

According to Anna Walz, an associate professor of marketing at Grand Valley State University, there are many issues facing retail stores in today’s marketplace.

“There is more retail space per person in America than almost anywhere in the world. We have six times as much space per person than they do in England,” Walz said.

That is just one issue facing retail stores these days, another being stores have to find a way to be unique — not just from other brick-and-mortar stores but also online retailers.

“They also have to find a way to communicate this clearly so that consumers can see oh that’s why I should be shopping there instead of going to a different retailer or shopping online,” said Walz.

But what about mega-retail corridors like Alpine Avenue in Grand Rapids, West Main Street in Kalamazoo or US-31 in Ottawa County? Could those sectors be at risk?

Walz says they will likely change because what consumers want when they are shopping is changing.

“We might see retailers starting to shift back to downtown locations or other neighborhoods where it’s a little more convenient than those 28th Street locations and Alpine,” Walz said.

That is why we are seeing more mixed-use developments where people can live, work and shop in the same building.

But there is also research that points to a generational cycle. About every four generations the current group, in this case Generation Z, is mimicking the characteristics of the silent generation — the generation that did most of their living and shopping in downtowns before suburban sprawl.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean retail stores are going to close in their entirety but you might see locations closing and then they have to shuffle things around and figure out how to make things work,” said Walz.