Stores fighting to stay afloat as they figure out how to stay competitive in the digital age

Posted at 8:53 AM, Dec 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-11 18:33:21-05

The map at Great Northern Mall shows something that is becoming less likely across the nation: big-name anchor stores with smaller stores sprinkled in between.

Wylly and Sarah Yarber drove all the way from the Sandusky area to Olmsted Falls because this is the closest retail hub.

Shoppers walk into an entrance at Great Northern Mall, where national stores still have stayed open while shutting some other locations. 

"You know, a lot of people are just staying home and order their stuff and get it delivered to the door in a day," said Wylly. "It's an Amazon world we live in."

In 2018, Sears filed for bankruptcy, Toys R Us closed all their stores, and other major brands reduced the number of brick and mortar stores they maintain.

The closed Sears location at Richmond Centre, which will eventually be torn down and redeveloped into apartments, restaurant space, and a hotel.

"The ones who haven't figured it out, you'll see their stores shut down," said Ashland University College of Business and Economics Dean Dr. Elad Granot.

Jerry Masisak owned and worked in a shoe store for 45 years. As he walks around the Great Northern Mall, he says the national retailers closing affects everyone.

Higbee's historic downtown location is decorated to recall the heyday of the retailer but now houses the Jack Casino.

"Most people would think, being in retail, you'd be happy losing a competitor, but I think it weakens the whole structure," said Masisak.

He says that's why the relationships small business owners can build with customers is so important.

The Van Aken District in Shaker Heights is designed around new retail trends, as a walkable, outdoor mall with locally owned stores.

"The bigger you get, the tougher it is to maintain that kind of relationship with your customers," said Masisak.

Wylly says sometimes he feels like he gets that attention, and sometimes, he doesn't. It all plays a role in deciding where he's ultimately going to spend his money.

"I see people advertising stuff, I walk up, I look at their stuff, they just look at me and don't say a word," said Wylly. "I'm not stopping."

J.C. Penney welcomes shoppers and runs holiday sales in Great Northern Mall.

In Richmond Heights, a former Sears location is going to be redeveloped into apartments with room for smaller businesses and restaurants. You can find that story here.