The pending closing of the Sears store at the Findlay mall is further evidence that no place is immune to the changes that are altering the way we shop.
The steady march continues toward “e-commerce,” the term used to describe the way many people prefer to shop without stepping foot into a store or even writing a check. (Does anyone really do that anymore?)
Many people now shop from the comfort of home, in front of their computer or on a tablet or via smartphone, or perhaps while waiting in line at McDonald’s.
Most people no longer jump in the car and run to Sears to pick up a Craftsman tool. They order it over the Internet with a credit card and have it delivered to their door.
News that the Findlay Sears, one of the anchors at the Findlay Village Mall, will be pulling out this spring isn’t necessarily shocking, but is disconcerting to those who grew up with Sears’ “Wish Book” Christmas catalogs, Kenmore appliances and DieHard batteries.
It is mostly those generations of people who still like to actually see and touch something before they buy it.
Big stores like the one Sears has operated here since the 1960s will likely become harder and harder to find as American shopping habits continue to evolve, and retailers adjust to market demands.
Malls may not disappear, but they will shrink. Remaining retailers will have to be on the cutting edge of marketing trends if they’re to continue to lure shoppers into their stores.
E-commerce isn’t just impacting the largest retailers in malls. The march is also taking place along Main Street, where Findlay’s Sears first opened in 1954.
Niswander’s Jewelers, which has been in downtown Findlay for 78 years, and which specialized in the lost art of customer service, recently closed its doors, in part, owner Barry Niswander has said, because many jewelry customers are shopping online.
Sears is apparently adjusting to that same trend by closing stores.
Thriving early on sales through its mail-order catalogs, Sears was this country’s largest retailer until 1989, when Walmart took over. Sears slipped to 12th by 2012. Sears Holdings now operates about 4,000 retail locations under the mastheads of Sears and Kmart, and it still has more than 900 full-service stores, like Findlay’s.
These days, Sears, like all major retailers, has to constantly re-invent itself to survive in the e-commerce world, where the buying and selling of products or services is conducted over electronic networks, not at cash registers.
Most retail experts predict Sears will survive, but will look and operate differently.
There’s a price to pay for today’s conveniences, and part of that is the loss of customer service, which once made stores like Sears such comfortable places to shop.
Communities pay a big price, too, when retail moves on. Jobs are lost, sales tax is gone, and advertising dollars disappear. Findlay is an example of a community that has benefited greatly from a strong retail base, and the out-of-town traffic drawn to it. Losing a retailer like Sears will hurt us all, directly or indirectly.
We would hope consumers will continue to support local retail, both at the mall and along Main Street.
It’s one thing to give up those thick, bulky catalogs that Sears, JC Penney, and others used to distribute several times a year. It’s another to lose a store which has been here more than 50 years.
Even people who may not have shopped there every week or even every month knew it was there if they needed a new washer or dryer, a car battery, or a certain brand of jeans.
To them, losing Sears will be like losing an old friend.
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