LOGAN – Large retailers are vacating their buildings and leaving their empty carcasses behind with miles of parking lots in Cache Valley and around the country. Business Insider predicted some 8,600 retail stores will close in 2019 as the retail apocalypse continues.
In 2015, Sports Authority closed and so did Gold’s Gym in Logan. Kmart closed in 2016. Macey’s north store and ShopKo shut their doors this year. Smaller stores like Sears, Payless Shoes, Bed, Bath and Beyond have also closed recently throughout Cache Valley.
Mike DeSimone, director for community development for Logan City, said there isn’t a lot the city can do with the those empty retail stores because they don’t own them. For the most part, the closed retail stores are owned by people from out of town.
“The empty buildings are a sign of the changing nature of retail,” DeSimone said. “There is not a lot of need for that kind of space anymore.”
He said he likes to handle products before he buys them, but kids nowadays buy it online and you can have anything from shoelaces to hats delivered to your front door.
“The old stores could be partitioned off or be torn down,” DeSimone claimed. “They just may have to sit there a while until their value comes up again.”
Kirk Jensen, who also works for Logan City’s economic department, said the building owners secure their own tenants. They may hire a real estate professional, or they may go it alone. He said he does make periodic contacts with companies to create interest in Logan City.
“I give potential companies housing information and other property availability and contact information,” he said. “We do play a role in trying to bring attention to real estate opportunities by playing a marketing function.”
He said whether it be a shopping center or malls, everyone is trying to backfill their spaces across the country.
“Malls and shopping centers are trying to bring different uses to their spaces, trying to gain new tenants,” Jensen said. “Everything in retail is in a state of flux.”
Chase Butterfield, who handles economic development for North Logan City, said they have been working to fill the Kmart building. They recently formed the North Logan City Economic Development Committee to help with the task, but the space is privately owned by a group from New York.
“It is up to the company in New York,” Butterfield said. “We are trying to come with options by looking at other Kmart’s and the companies that move into the buildings.”
One concern is bringing someone that would compete with other businesses.
“It’s an ongoing thing and a slow process,” he said. “One of the problems is it’s a privately owned company and they want New York prices and the cost is too high.”
In 1962, the first Walmart, Kmart, Target and ShopKo stores opened and began to dot the landscape in the United States. They had a big place in the US economy for about 50 years.
Walmart has found a place in the internet retail marketplace and is trying to keep pace with online giant Amazon. The rest were slow to react and took a hit form internet retail companies.
Despite the doomed retail stores and the change in retail philosophy, Cache Valley still has one of the strongest economies in the state, with an unemployment rate of 1.9% in September, while the state is 2.7$. The U.S. average is 3.5% in September, according to Utah Department of Workforce Services.