The Sears in Our Local Mall is Closing This Month – What’s Next?

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It seems as if every few months we’re treated to a list of store closings by Sears. I’ve noticed in the past they’ve mainly closed stores located in rural areas or in very small cities. But this year they’ve taken to closing stores in prime locations. So, we weren’t surprised to read that the Sears in our local mall is closing this month.

On a personal level, this is hardly an issue. We’re not a Sears family. The one purchase I made at Sears in the past few years was a poor experience, and I never went back.

The Sears in Our Local Mall is Closing This Month – What’s Next?
The Sears in Our Local Mall is Closing This Month – What’s Next?

But that doesn’t mean Sears closing our local store isn’t a concern. It’s one thing when an over-priced mall boutique store closes. But when an anchor store closes, the viability of the entire mall is at stake. And for that matter, so is the general community.

What Will Replace Sears at the Local Mall?

Our mall has three anchor stores, Sears, Macy’s and JC Penny. In truth, Sears hasn’t been a major draw, at least not like the other two. But that doesn’t mean its departure will be without consequences.

The central question is who will fill the cavernous space the company is about to abandon?

There’s a fundamental problem with the closure of mall anchor stores. The companies that would take their place aren’t expanding. Competitors that might be expected to move in, like Nordstrom and Dillard, aren’t opening new stores.

One option would be to subdivide the store into smaller units for “in-line” stores. But a lot of the popular mall retail chains have been closing stores as well. It’s unlikely subdividing the space will prove successful.

The bottom line is that the Sears space could sit empty…for years.

An empty anchor space is mall poison. It usually leads to smaller stores closing, due to reduced mall patronage. It’s even possible for an entire wing of a mall to turn into a dead zone.

We saw that happen with our local mall in Alpharetta, Georgia, when a couple of anchor stores closed during the Financial Meltdown. After the anchors went, entire hallways emptied out. One wing was boarded up and painted with happy scenes of local life. But the spaces were devoid of human activity.

The overall balance in the mall has been on the edge for several years already. One store closes, another opens up, but then yet another closes. There are always empties, especially after the holiday season.

For example, the mall used to have an A.C. Moore. They closed, and the space sat empty for a time. Then Glow Golf took over the space. They lasted two years, and now they’re gone. That’s been the pattern.

The Impact of the Sears Closing on What’s Happening Outside the Mall

Our mall is the center piece of a regional shopping district that contains hundreds of stores. This is a common arrangement throughout the country. I don’t know what’s happening in your area, but there’s been a noticeable trend of retail store fronts going dark. It isn’t like a tsunami, but more like a slow creeping rot. Something like for every two stores that open, three close down.

Tragically, either new buildings are constructed, or old buildings are substantially remodeled. Stores vacate old, unrennovated buildings in favor of the new and improved ones. The old buildings sit empty. Two years ago, a grocery store pulled out of a strip mall about a half mile from the mall and that center has gone dead. Other storefronts in the surrounding area have similarly closed shop.

It’s as if a blight has hit the north end of the shopping district, and is slowly working its way south. But the mall sits on the southern end of the district, and we have to wonder if the lights are starting to go out from both directions. Time will tell.

The Factor that Makes this Worse than it Seems on the Surface

On the one hand, we can look at Sears and declare that they brought it on themselves. In fact, we can say that about retail in general. They’ve over-expanded, and many are using out-dated business models, and not keeping up with the times.

The over-expansion point is especially relevant. The US has more retail space per capita than any other country in the world, and by a wide margin. For example, we have more than 10 times the retail space per capita of Germany, and 50 times that of China. It’s no wonder Amazon and other online sellers are eating the retail chains’ lunch.

But that doesn’t mean we should cheer retail’s demise.

There are three factors in particular we need to be concerned about.

The Retail Implosion is Happening During a Theoretical Economic Expansion

The US is going through a full-scale retail apocalypse. This is not to be under-estimated. Though we see it play out as the gradual closing of a few stores each year in our local areas, the reality is that thousands of stores are closing nationally every year.

What makes this particularly disturbing is that it’s happening nine years into a theoretical economic expansion. I say “theoretical”, because the decline of retail, as well as other industries, calls the strength of this recovery into question.

What we mostly seem to have is a financial expansion. The financial markets are certainly growing, and real estate prices have staged an impressive recovery, albeit on much lower volume then was the case before 2008. And of course, the health care and education juggernauts continue to grow as if they are not in any way limited by the laws of physics.

But just about every other area the economy seems to be in some level of distress. The statistics on the rise in people living paycheck-to-paycheck bears this out.

We have to wonder what will become of the retail decline when the economy enters an official recession. What now seems to be a controlled decline could turn into a full-scale contagion, and that will have economic consequences.

The Economics of Retail’s Decline

If it weren’t for the economic fallout, the decline of retail might be nothing more than a long overdue and interesting phenomenon. But what I see happening in our own local mall district is more than a bit disturbing.

Empty stores mean landlords aren’t getting rents. They may continue to pay the debt service and real estate taxes for a time. But if a store or a strip mall sit empty for a year or more, the capital dries up, and foreclosure becomes a real threat. When that happens, the city and county lose tax revenue.

Then there’s the blight factor. As a shopping district empties out, people stop going there. It becomes an urban ghost town. It’s bad enough when it’s a few strip malls and free-standing stores that sit empty. But when a mall goes down (and eventually out) it can pull down an entire retail district. That can also hurt adjacent residential neighborhoods, particularly apartments economically linked to the shopping district.

The once bustling shopping district becomes a waste land, often dominated by unsavory elements, like rampant drug activity.

The good side of foreclosure is that empty properties are eventually sold at a much lower price, creating more options for low cost business operations. But that’s a slow transition, not to mention the obvious question of what kinds of businesses will occupy all that vacant space?

In a world increasingly dominated by online and service businesses, there doesn’t seem to be a need for all that physical space. Tearing it down may be the best option, but where are the money and motivation to bring that about?

The Impact of the Retail Decline on Employment

I’ve saved the worst news for last. About 16 million Americans work in retail, which is more than 10% of the total workforce.

A 50% decline in the retail industry could see 8 million people lose their jobs. 50% may seem like an exaggeration, but once again be reminded that the retail decline has happened throughout a nine-year economic expansion. When the economy begins the tank – and it will – the retail decline is likely to turn into a full-scale implosion.

There’s also the technology factor. Already, as cities and states move to increase minimum wage levels, retailers are replacing people with machines. Think self-service drink machines in fast food restaurants as but one example. Retail employment is facing pressure from two sides – closing stores, and increasing technology.

The optimists will say that those millions of people will simply have to “redeploy” elsewhere in the economy. But the question is where, especially if the general economy is declining. Not everyone will be in a position to transition effortlessly into education and healthcare.

I’ve been in that position of needing to change careers in the middle of a recession, and I can tell you from personal experience that that redeployment thing is heavily over-rated, despite how warm and fuzzy it feels to economists when they utter it.

As well, we can’t ignore two other obvious realities of retail employment:

  1. Retail serves as a point of entry to employment – a first job – for millions of people. Where will new entrants to the job market start as retail flames out?
  2. You know that redeployment thing? It often brings people into retail. What’s often forgotten is that retail has served as the employer of last resort for millions of people fleeing other industries.

In the End, the Sears Closing is a Sign of a Much Bigger Phenomenon

It’s not my purpose to get sentimental about the closing of a single Sears store, even if it is happening in hundreds of communities across the country. But it’s more to open a discussion on what the demise of Sears symbolizes, and what it implies for the future.

As the economy increasingly financializes and goes cyber, what’s left of what we used to call the real economy continues to decline. We’ve already seen it happen with farming and manufacturing. Now it’s extending to retail in an almost logical progression. And it’s doubtless there are other industries facing the same fate, but too small to make front page news.

Cheatsheet.com recently put out a list of the 15 worst companies in America to work for. It should surprise no one that 11 of the 15 are retailers. When a company or an entire industry are in decline, working conditions are poor. And the way retail is going, employment looks destined to get even worse going forward.

This article is a call to anyone who works in retail to be intentional about making other arrangements before things start to get really ugly.

( Photo by Phillip Pessar )

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35 Responses to The Sears in Our Local Mall is Closing This Month – What’s Next?

  1. So let’s look at it form a different perspective from my normal. I have commented on the economy enough. If it isn’t in question where I stand then it never will be.
    What would draw people to Sear’s now a day. When I was a kid their we’re two big retail stores in my whole area. K mart or Sear’s. You went to one or the other. Now their are so many choices that Sear’s offers nothing that a hundred other places offer also. Used to be Sear’s had a great tool department. Now you don’t need to go to Sear’s to buy tools. I have bought the majority of my tools from garage sales or outlet places online that offer the same thing at half the price.
    Appliances were another one. Now their are hundred other avenues to buy an appliance.
    Clothes? No, they are garbage anyway. Shoes? No same as above. TV’s ? Nope, best buy has taken over that at least in this area.
    Retail has become so over saturated that these stores time has passed. Even sporting goods. I’m a big golfer. So if I want to buy say golf clubs. I go to golf galaxy test out there stuff then order the same thing online, cheaper. Golfballs? Their are so many bargain outlets online now that it isn’t worth it for me to overpay at Dick’s for the same thing.

    So for me I just don’t see the appeal anymore of all these stores that offer the same thing. Target, Walmart, Sear’s, Kmart J.C. Penny. They are basically the same thing.
    The in store experience also has become a terrible experience. No help, one cashier. Traffic, who needs it? I’d rather order online have it come right to my door without the hassle. Even returns, I leave with my local UPS man and he takes it. Alot of these companies even send you a shipping label in case you have to send back. All without leaving my house. Giving more time for other things.

  2. Hi Tim – I agree with all you’re saying. I’m pretty much the same way. But we can’t ignore the economic and social fallout. These stores represent tens of thousands of buildings and millions of jobs. What becomes of those buildings and jobs when these chains disappear? We’ve also lost Toys R Us earlier this year, and the building still sits empty. None of this is good for the community or local employment. My main point in the article is that these closures are going to require some sort of major “clean up”. It won’t be pretty, and few of us will be immune from it.

    My optimistic outlook is that small businesses will eventually fill the void. But between now and then, things could get really messy, with a lot of people being displaced. The online providers aren’t providing nearly the jobs the retail chains do.

  3. Agreed. My answer was from a consumer standpoint. You have to admit that we are our own worse enemy when it comes to this.
    With so much wage pressure now from people who think these jobs are suppose to support a household and family. They were never intended to be that. People who want all kinds of perks that I was lucky to get in a law enforcement career.
    Health care, 401K, disability ? Really? plus 15 dollars an hour or more.
    I am sick of hearing the greedy corporation argument also. It’s there business what they pay and to whom. Not an entry level employee’s opinion. If you don’t like what they pay their CEO then go to school and work your butt off to get there themselves.

    So yes I agree with you but I also believe that we have made ourselves the scapgoats for unrealistic expectations.
    To be fair this isn’t anymore factory jobs that paid well to an uneducated person who didn’t go to college. Back in the 70’s you could work at chevy or Ford, Steel companies. You can’t do that anymore. My job has become the modern day factory job of the 60’s and 70’s.

    I don’t blame these companies for automating more and more. No demands, no sick time, no benefits. Why wouldn’t they do it. There responsibility is to there stockholders not an entry level employee who wants the worls to hang up clothes or use a cash register.

  4. A good friend of mine, a history buff/expert, said back in the 1980s that he was worried what would happen to the people who had limited education and/or no technical skills. He said that in response to all the factory closings back then, out of concern for the middle class. He said – this is where his history background came into the picture – the strength of America and any nation was it’s middle class, but the jobs that could sustain them were disappearing. That “prophecy” is now extending to retail. That’s my real concern. Where are millions of people with minimal skills going to work as these stores close en masse. A retail depression could look a lot like the 1930s with empty buildings and armies of unemployed people. I don’t think the Fed will be able to fix that with more money printing either.

  5. I remember working in retail staring out in the ’70’s. Montgomery Wards in a strip mall. We worried about the devastation caused to the “main streets” in our towns and watched as they slowly died.
    Now it has come full circle and the malls are dying
    Wierd how the great mail order retailers of the old days can’t reinvent themselves into the etailers of today.
    The Wards I worked in way back when could never compete today with all the inefficiencies and waste we had.
    I do see hope in some small towns that actually figure it out and are able to offer local retail choices to their residents while attracting attracting out of town people to come and shop.
    It’s all about the “experience” these days
    It’s hard to order that online.

  6. Hi Rick – Agreed, the malls are now the victims. It’s been said that back in the 60s and 70s Sears WAS Walmart, and had the same effect Walmart is having today. Sears’ jingle in the 70s was even “Sears – has everything”, which was virtually true. They wreaked havoc on town centers.

    I think online retail is here to stay for all the reasons we use it. But I don’t think physical retail is dead, just the overbuilt and non-competative chains, and there are too many of them. I’d like to see the town centers come back, or the malls refill with small shops with practical products and services. I’ll be a better experience for the shopper. It’s hard to imagine what those huge spaces can be used for otherwise. It’s unlikely they’ll be converted to offices or apartments, so it’s reorganize or demolish. But the downward path will be a painful one for a lot of communities and employees. It’ll likely be similar to the death of downtowns in the 60s, 70s and 80s as malls and big boxes moved in and took out the locals.

  7. My husband always shopped Sears for Craftsman tools but I never bought anything there. When my son was a toddler and young boy, I got him jeans there but one time I couldn’t find the style and size he needed. When I asked when they would get more in stock, the response was that they never knew and couldn’t control what came on he truck. This struck me as pretty poor service and found different places to get clothes for him. That was 30 years ago and apparently things didn’t improve. Our local mall’s Sears is closing also, as did Bergners department store at the same mall. The fear is that Macy’s will also close soon which will leave no remaining anchor stores at the mall. The stores remaining mainly cater to teens and as a 60+ retired woman, I just don’t have a reason to shop there. It is sad, as it was when downtown shopping districts closed due to the building of malls on the edge of town. But retail is always going through cycles of change and I don’t suppose that will change.

  8. I agree with you on Sears. When my son was very little, we were able to buy clothes there, but once he hit 4 or 5, it thinned out. That was 20 years ago, and we haven’t gone there much since. In fact, I don’t know anyone who regularly shops at Sears, which explains their plight. I’m certainly not shedding a tear for Sears, but I am worried about the fallout at the mall and surrounding area, as well as for employees losing their jobs. Though we normally think of retail as employing mostly part-time clerks, there are full time workers who will lose benefited jobs.

    But here’s something weird…I drove by Sears this morning, and there were no banners announcing the closing. There were just a few signs announcing a Big Blowout Sale. And if you can believe this – there was a “help wanted” sign! Maybe they need people to close up the store? Or maybe they anticipate a run on the store in the next few weeks? I wouldn’t take a job there, that’s for sure.

  9. Traditional retail is in decline, for sure. But it’s not dead, nor will it die completely. People will always need stores for basic items, even in times of limited discretionary spending. You will not convince me that I am going to pay Amazon to air-deliver a 48-pack of toilet paper using a drone.

    So let’s say that 50% of retail jobs disappear. That’s 5% of all jobs. Add that to the current unemployment rate and you get something in the range of 10%? On a micro level, that’s bad for individual people. But on a macro level that is hardly a disaster.

    The world has evolved from agriculture to manufacturing to service. I don’t know what the next thing will be, but I’m sure it will be something.

    The question is whether nations want to assist their populace through economic transitions. A strong social safety net is very likely the answer. If it isn’t, I don’t know what is.

    I’m not suggesting universal basic income. I don’t know enough about that to have a strong opinion one way or the other. But I do believe that a nation is happiest, safest and most sustainable when everyone can earn something doing something.

    Desperate people do desperate things. The top 1% can sit in their gated communities, on their big piles of money. I suppose they can even hire private security. But sooner or later the people with nothing to lose are going to show up and take what they need. Call it a revolution; call it what you will. But it will happen.

    I know Tim doesn’t like to bring politics into it, so I will tread lightly: the evidence is that trickle-down economics is bollocks, regardless of which party espouses it.

    I feel like I’m rambling…. anyway, that’s my two cents.

  10. Hi Neil – I’m in complete agreement with you on the need for society to find a way to enable people to earn a living. But it’s complicated by regulation. In a truly free market economy and workforce, people would always find new jobs. But we have a tightly managed economy that favors some industries and companies over others. For example, healthcare, education and government keep getting bigger, as each is favored by government in some form. Other industries are being bled dry by high healthcare costs, as are individuals who are also being fleeced on ridiculous higher education costs. And both individuals and businesses are paying more in taxes than ever (though most don’t know it because of the stealth nature of taxes, like the employer match on FICA, or taxes on gasoline and utilities, just to name a few).

    In the meantime, industry after industry is collapsing, and there are fewer people self-employed than ever before. So where do people go for work? Everyone can’t transition into healthcare, education and technology, which is the standard “medicine” for unemployment. The whole economic situation has become so complex and convoluted that millions are being shut out, or are at risk of it in the next downturn. Like you, I fear a revolution of some sort. The American Revolution was one of the few that had a happy ending. Most bring on a dictatorship or a reign of terror, so we definitely don’t want to go down that path. But when nothing is done for the “working stiffs” bad things happen.

    What really sucks is that we’ve all read about these outcomes in the history books (repression and exploitation of the lower classes), and yet most don’t see it happen today. We seem to be too drunk on credit, entertainment and political conflict to pay attention to what’s really going on. And if memory serves, distraction is one of the classic ways the lower classes have been held down throughout history (like bread and circuses in the Roman Empire). How is it that we think we’re too smart and too just to be doing the very same thing today?

    I may be guilty of exaggerating the Sears situation, and retail in general, but to me it’s a barometer of foundational problems playing out just below the surface. I fully agree that we’ll always have retail. I even think the Amazon phenomenon, that currently looks unstoppable, will top out and even recede. But things are going to get messy along the way.

  11. I will weigh in on Sears. Ours closed last winter. I hadn’t purchased anything there in years. I don’t know whether it could have been saved or not, but part of its demise can be attributed to the hedge fund that bought it and bled it dry. They had no intention of saving it, and wanted to make sure they pulled every cent out of it before declaring bankruptcy.

  12. a.k.a., same-old-same-old on Wall Street. But Sears business model was rooted in the 70s. I remember in the early 80s they began raising their prices, comparable to Macy’s. They were going “upscale”. The problem was they were selling downtown merchandise at uptown prices. That’s when they began their slide, and they never recovered. Low quality merch being sold at premium prices. A lot of companies went that route in the 80s trying to take advantage of the Yuppie thing. It worked for some, but successive recessions have put a lot of them out of business. Online is finishing the job. What puzzles me is how these big companies with their high paid CEOs and boards didn’t see this coming and adjust. To that end they deserve to fail. But it’s not at all good for the rank and file.

    One of my theories is that as Amazon drives out physical retail, their prices will eventually rise due to lack of competition. Though it may be hard to do in a truly global online market. Amazon may ultimately be done in by smaller competitors at that point, rather than a major competitor.

  13. At the risk of sounding a bit out there, I think that the combination of a decreasing number of decent jobs/opportunities along with an ever increasing population (particularly of young people,) could be a recipe for eventual serious political instability in years to come…

    I sometimes wonder if this is part of the reason that the government keeps expanding the distribution of benefits to so many people (even if it fudges the numbers to look like it isn’t.) It wants to maintain some sort of social equilibrium given that the brutal reality is that the available number of jobs is shrinking while the population, world-wide and in a global economy, continues to grow. And none of that looks like it will change in the near future, if ever.

    It might not be a great solution (particularly for the shrinking middle-class who ends up footing most of the bill) or ultimately sustainable but, the truth is, I’m not sure anyone has the answers to the unprecedented changes that we are facing today.

  14. Hi Suzy – You’re not at all “out there”. You’re connecting the dots, which is what we like to do on this site. Though so many of these events seem somehow small, like a store closing, they’re usually the tip of the iceberg of much bigger problems that everyone tries to ignore.

    My personal bigger picture assessment is that we’re finally coming face-to-face with the problems of over-polulation. There aren’t enough jobs for everyone, and governments are working desperately to maintain the veneer of “all’s well” (through the fudged numbers). Then you look at the massive shifts of people from poor countries to rich ones, like all the boat people arriving in Europe. People are shifting all over the world looking for stability, which is getting harder to find.

    I agree with you, there are no answers so we’ll all have to muddle through and make the best of it. That’s why my final recommendation in the article was for people working in retail to explore other opportunities. It’s like we all need to be ready to move on short notice. Not the world we grew up in, but it’s what is.

  15. I agree trickle down ecomonmics doesn’t work. It never has. I noticed this treand a while ago. It is another symtom Kevin of a rotting nation. Just like the one we were discussing last week. Kids not working was another symtom.
    It hasn’t been noticed yet by the masses. I suspect in the next ten years it will become more and more noticeable. This is still in the infant stage. You can drive around this city and stores close all the time. There is another one to take it’s place right behind it. When that runs it’s coarse it will become more noticeable. When nothing is taking it’s place. Once people start losing there jobs in Mass you will see more and more cival unrest. We have a ways to go for that. look how long Sears held on before it finally went out. We still have a Kmart here. There is never anybody there but it somehow is still open. Amazon is still a blip on the radar. I read recently that online retail only accounts for eight percent of the market. These are all symtoms of a rotting nation. Nobody has noticed yet or if they have they don’t believe it.

    I don’t know where it all blows up but it’s gonna be ugly before it gets better.

  16. You may be right Tim, Amazon is getting the blame to cover for more fundamental problems. I’m really worried about what will happen when the next recession hits. Considering nothing has been fixed since the last two, the next one could trip us into something much worse. It’s hard not to be pessimistic.

  17. The can has been kicked down the road for a long time. Nothing was ever fixed. It was just masked over with Band-Aids. They keep plugging the holes in the dyke but a new one keeps popping out. There is becoming more holes the can be plugged. So far it’s worked to keep everybody asleep or most people.
    Yeah, I’m interested to see how it will play out.
    I’m actually kinda of looking forward to it. Something better always comes of it after the storm. We might end up being a real country again. That makes things

  18. Good point Tim. An economic meltdown is like a purge that takes out the excess. When it’s done, there’s something closer to a real economy uncovered. Maybe then we can get back to sanity. It’s just that the ride down can be hell. And if the government works to stop it this time it will just prolong the agony.

  19. Thanks Kevin, I hadn’t seen your previous comment about your also thinking the current situation was leading to some type of eventual political/social meltdown before I posted mine.

    And, yes, while I didn’t want to say more about overpopulation, I agree that it is a big part of the problem. In many instances, even to suggest it, provokes backlash because it conflicts with the deeply held religious and cultural beliefs of many…

  20. I’m a Bible believing Christian Suzy, but I see the effects of over-population. It’s like we’ve finally reached a point where Pandora’s box is opening. There isn’t enough to go around, and those who have are using every means possible to protect it from those who don’t. And don’t get me started on the lack of political leadership worldwide. These guys and ladies in power are sucking their thumbs and smiling for the cameras while the pressure builds to a crisis while they don’t have a clue.

  21. It is interesting that all these topics we seem to end up back in the same place. It is hard to really know what all the causes are. Some of what we say is probably true. Some of it we are probably way off.
    It could be as simple as Sear’s has just run its course in life as a retail outlet. The comment about the Hedge Fund just basically bleeding it dry while it can make a lot of sense to me.

    Kevin, it is always the little guy that gets screwed in the end. The rich have been screwing over the poor since the beginning of time. It won’t change. He who has makes the rules. That will never change. I get stuck in the middle of this argument. On one hand, as a business owner, I do not want to be told how much to pay and to whom. I feel like that’s my business. I took the risks to start the business. I pay the bills. The employee has no responsibility other than to show up and work. They are not going to be there if I get sued or go bankrupt. They can walk away and find other employment.
    On the other hand, I feel a certain responsibility to be fair to an employee. Without them, businesses don’t run.
    Retail businesses are run very poorly. The people at the top have no real vested interest in running them properly. It’s not their money at stake.
    Owner run and operated businesses are the safest bet for a person looking for a job. My business was started by me. With my own money. It is paid for with my own money. Not loans or investors or hedge funds looking for a cash cow. If it goes under, I go under. I have a direct vested interest in running it properly.
    It is the same way the government is run. It’s not their money. They have nothing personal at stake to run the country financially responsible. The president was a rich man before he was elected. He will be one after it is over. No matter how he runs the country.

    Anyway, I’m not sure what point I am making.

  22. You’re a capitalist in the true sense Tim. But the people don’t turn their wrath on the government or even on big business, perhaps because they can’t get to them. Instead they go after small fries. It becomes a battle of us-vs-us. It’s the perfect construct for the powerful. We turn on one another, and the powerful enjoy summer in the Hamptons. You couldn’t design a better system if you were in power. I don’t think it’s as simple as a Sears closing. Yes they’re management has been incompetent for years. But they’re not the only company going down. As JFK put it, “A rising tide lifts all boats”. Our core problem is that the tide ain’t rising, and it hasn’t been for a long time (outside the financial markets). Sears, Toys R Us, and people living paycheck to paycheck are just the results.

  23. Great comment on the Hamptons. I have said this for years. We fight amoung ourselves about race and gender bathrooms. Mean while the rich get richer and enjoy their lives.
    It is a perfect system for the top tier earners. We focus are anger in the wrong places.
    Employee’s of these companies are always the causualties of the system.

  24. It’s the ancient, time honored divide-and-conquer strategy. Keep groups separated and they’re easier to handle. Of course turning them on one another is the execution of the strategy to it’s perfection, a true work of manipulative art. The powers that be get a big fat gold star on that one.

    If blacks, whites, Latinos and other groups ever realize we’re all in the same boat and unite, that’ll be when you’ll see “change you can believe in”.

  25. A thought I had while reading through the comments: Has anyone factored in the end of the boomer generation? They are a big reason all the growth and migration happened. I would think they still hold on to a lot of jobs. As more of them retire and then die will there actually be enough people to take their place? Also would mean a big hit to the health care industry with less smoking and more preventstive care among younger people. Thete were 6 kids in my family and mmost others had at least 4. Schools and hospitals may have to get smaller!

  26. That’s possible Rick, but immigration seems to be taking their place, numerically speaking. The evidence is the population of the country is about 50% higher than it was in 1980. That’s incredible population growth in a developed country. But I do think your point is a valid one. The Baby Boomers were the Yuppie generation of conspicuous consumption, though most were wanna-bes who spent almost as much money. As we fade, consumer preferences are shifting. Since Big Retail LOVED the Yuppies, they can’t let go and continue to pretend they’re a force. The top 10% are still spending like Yuppies, but the bottom 90% seem to be pulling back. That causes all kinds of shifts. I know we’re spending a lot less than we did back in the 80s and 90s and always looking for bargains and discounts.

    I think what might also be impacting the Baby Boomers is a combination of debt (esp cosigned student loans for their kids) and the fact that millions are now raising their grand kids. You just can’t spend as much in either situation, and some are dealing with both. In fact, there’s been a pronounced rise in the number of households over 60 filing for bankruptcy. So yeah, something’s definitely up with the Baby Boomers. Though I don’t think that’s the main problem. The fact that 50% of Americans now receive some form of government benefits points to problems at a very deep level. In a healthy economy that number would be substantially less than 25%. Something ugly is happening that’s just below visual range.

    I don’t mean to sound so pessimistic, but when you research this and begin connecting the dots, what’s really going on becomes more obvious. I’m not nearly the only one doing this, but most Americans don’t want to be bothered by “this stuff” even though they sense something is very wrong. Obviously, ESPN, the battling political talking heads and the Kardashians are more interesting to the masses. You don’t have to think, you just have to pick a side then engage in the faux conflicts. (BTW, I think the perennial conflicts on “reality shows” reflects/promotes this trend.)

    I’m talking too much, and I need to stop…

  27. Many feel helpless Kevin. It’s not that they would rather do that but I think when most people get to the point where they feel helpless they just retreat into some safe world where you don’t have to think.

    I find myself doing this more and more as time goes on. I don’t socialize nearly as much as I used too. I find that I spend hours just hiding at a golf course. I thought about that yesterday. I do belong to a club. I go out there after work by myself and play. There is something about being totally alone 5 miles from the clubhouse without nobody around but trees and grass that appeals to me more than ever. I don’t think I play anymore for another reason that it’s mainly an escape.

    People know. I know. Just like I, people probably feel a little helpless and just hide. Some do it with TV, some with booze or drugs. At the end of the day, life is stressful enough without consuming your mind with more problems that we can’t really change.
    I can’t fight the government. They have unlimited resources. My club is in Canada. Sounds funny but the minute I cross over the border I feel more peaceful.

    I’m rambling also. LOL

  28. What you’re saying all makes sense Tim. I find myself with a similar reaction. I find TV and the mainstream media disgusting and I can’t stomach politicians of either stripe. I find solace in my work, my family, my faith, my daily walks, going to the gym, and on our various jaunts around New England. Speaking of which, since Northern New England is somewhat outside the mainstream, I find it a more pleasant and less pressured life than our previous residences in Georgia and New Jersey. We have similar problems as the rest of the country, but the lack of urban intensity makes it more tolerable. People are aware of what’s going on, but they just kind of live their lives as they will anyway.

  29. Yeah, Fort Erie which is just over the peace bridge is just a small nothing town but it’s somewhat rural and there never seems to be any traffic at all.
    Amazing condsidering you can see downtown Buffalo and you are literally five minutes away. It a different country though.
    Buffalo is very populated despite the image it has. It has grown big in the last ten years.
    The traffic has become a huge problem.
    Anyway, not sure what this has to do with Sears. Maybe we can write a blog on different places your readers live and the issues. Im just curious I guess. I never considered Canada as a residence but it doesn’t seem half bad anymore.

  30. We occasionally talk about moving to Canada, with it being so close. Not sure we ever will, but then I never expected to live Georgia or New Hampshire, so as the saying goes, “never say never”. I do think geography makes a difference. Life is a lot more comfortable here in NH, even though you wouldn’t expect it to be. But my experience is that you’re generally better going where the crowds aren’t. It may get to Suzy’s point about over-population being the ultimate problem. The less urban an area, the less impact there is from the national problems. For example, one problem that had become intolerable in Atlanta was traffic. Even in the suburban areas there was frequent gridlock. That just grinds you down, and contributes to other problems. Then there’s the competition factor that plays out in big metro areas. It’s pure wasted energy to no benefit.

  31. I lived in Atlanta. I hated it. Lasted three months. I went there right after I retired. I had a job offer I took. I went alone. I wasn’t moving anybody till I knew. Im glad I didn’t.
    I’m afraid my time in the city is coming to an end. The New England states are beautiful. I’m not sure where I’ll end up but it won’t be here. It might not be in this country period. I have five years here max.

  32. If you have a big investment portfolio or an online business, I hear Costa Rica and Panama are popular with American ex-patriots. I couldn’t take the heat, but maybe you’re OK with it. A fellow blogger (originally from France) moved to Guatemala, and is thriving with her blogging activities, while enjoying a low cost lifestyle in the tropics. But I can’t help but think those places have their own set of problems, which may be exacerbated by being a foreigner in a country you don’t fully understand.

  33. I’ve looked at both. I’m ok with the heat. It’s not like here. 85 there is nice. 85 here is stifling. The humidity is brutal here.
    I’m not planing to work except something locally. Caribbean is nice also. I’m looking for a quite laid-back beach feel.
    Will see. Who knows what will happen. It’s on my radar though.

  34. 50 years ago SEARS AUTOMOTIVE was customary stop for tires and repairs. Just ordered brake pads from the BIG A for 1/2 the cost of local auto parts store. Planet Fitness now occupies a location at a mall that once enjoyed full occupancy long ago. PF is feasting on the availability of empty space and recently opened up a new facility in a recently shuttered Sears Hardware. Ironic, huh. Adults no longer walk-to-shop while kids are glued to their electronic devices.

  35. I completely agree with you George, the entire retail market has changed, even apart from online stores. For example, recent trends indicate younger people are less interested in stuff than in experiences. They’d rather go hiking in the mountains or travel to a remote destination than go to the store and buy a bunch of stuff. There’s also been mounting evidence people are spending more money on eating out at restaurants (once again, an experience), and less on buying clothing in particular. That’s lost on the malls though, who continue to load up the hallways with clothing shops. Even those aren’t working because when people do spend money on clothing it’s increasingly at lower cost stores, like Marshalls, TJ Maxx, or even consignment shops.

    I’m not surprised about Planet Fitness. We belong to that gym, and they’ve got great package. It’s certainly not an elite gym (the gym rats would be disappointed), but for the common folks like me, it’s perfect. And at $10 or $15 per month, it fits neatly in a tight budget.

    This is the problem with the malls though, they don’t want to recognize the trend toward lower priced alternatives. It’s going to kill hundreds of chains and malls in the next recession. But tunnel vision seems to be dominate most business decisions. This isn’t the 1980s and 90s anymore, but the retailers continue to play the dangerous game of “let’s pretend”.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter anyway. The whole mall/retail chain complex, like every other business, is build on other people’s money. It’s easier to make dumb business moves when it isn’t your own money that’s at risk. And as far as the corporate chieftains losing their jobs, most seem to have an almost supernatural ability to find another one. They fail at ABC and get hired at XYZ despite the failure.

    I’m jealous!

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