Personal Impact of the Retail Apocalypse
As I had feared for the previous two years, in October our local Sears store closed, following the path of hundreds of others around the country. Among them was the one in my hometown in northern Ohio. The “Retail Apocalypse” has become a reality.
Alas, not only is Sears where I got our lawnmower, it’s also where I purchased my last two pairs of glasses, and my last winter coat.
For some friends, the retail apocalypse has been more personal.
Early in 2019, they threw a send-off party for their daughter. She had been promoted from manager of a local outlet to manager of a larger store near Cincinnati.
Eight months later, the chain announced it was closing all of their nearly 300 stores. Fortunately, she has landed her feet and is about to launch a new endeavor.
However, the overall outlook for retail isn’t so great, as evidenced by this recent story about our local mall conducting a “free rent” contest through Feb. 17.
A Bad Year
Until I checked recently, I didn’t know how bad things had gotten the past year.
According to this CNN story, more than 8,200 stores closed the first nine months, with final figures expected to hit 12,000. That compares to the previous high in 2017 of 6,700.
Yet, of all the retail merchandise and service shops closing in 2019, none hurt worse than the one that took place on Dec. 31.
The day before, I stopped by the automotive repair shop we had been using for about 14 years.
A single mother from our church had been having problems with her van.
The guy she thought could fix it turned out to not have the kind of experience that gave her a level of trust to hire him.
Wanting to help, I thought I’d see if our garage could handle the work.
That issue became irrelevant when the owner told me he had decided over Christmas to close the shop. He was tired of employee turnover and other headaches that go with running a business.
Years ago, we became a one-car family after hearing a sermon where the pastor talked about five families who pooled their resources in order to have the financial resources to send more missionaries to the field.
That included cutting back to one vehicle, which they all used on a rotating basis.
Afterwards, I said to my wife, “If five families can share one vehicle, surely two people can.”
Soon after, we sold one of our cars.
There are tradeoffs, of course, like arranging transportation when you must leave your car at a garage for the day.
That’s why we loved this garage so much, which was located less than a mile from our home.
When we took the car over in the morning, a guy would drive one of us back home.
In the afternoon, someone would come back to shuttle one of us to the garage to retrieve our car.
In addition, a couple times when we picked up and asked what we owed, the owner said, “First, drive it for a week or two to make sure the problem is fixed.”
That’s called “going the second mile.”
All is not lost, in this “Retail Apocalypse” though. In the week following the bad news, we received a trio of first-hand endorsements from friends who have used various, independently owned garages.
They found them reasonably priced and easy to deal with.
Of course, we’re praying we won’t have a reason to seek help from any garage soon. That would be some of the best news of 2020.