When the news hit the paper this week that yet another icon of retail would be closing its doors in Mitchell, my heart sank. I immediately thought of the original J.C. Penney store on Mitchell’s main street. A place my Mother frequented as a ready source of jeans for my brothers; who put holes in their pants at a rate that would rival any gopher on his best day. I still vividly remember going through the store myself, and walking down the big wide stairs to check out the new “junior section.” When the store announced it was re-locating to the new “mall’ it seemed like a great sign of progress-but would it be the same. The answer at least for me was a resounding ‘no’ – the mall was shiny & new, and like any other groupie I was there as often as my allowance permitted. But there was something far less personal about it.
Like the face of retail today the mall created a shift in how we shopped, socialized and thought about our favorite stores. With the rise of the internet, we have now gone from driving to the mall, to driving the face of commerce with the click of a mouse. The new reality of retail certainly affects my daily life, just as the closing of Penney’s will affect the entire Mitchell community.
Perhaps like many of you, I was not a frequent Penney’s shopper-but when I did go I invariably saw someone I knew. Maybe it was a busy mom in search of a household or wardrobe essential, or a friend, or a Penney’s employee who for some reason always remembered my name.
Make no mistake, I feel the pain of being in the middle of this retail storm. My sister and I have been operating Reggio Imports for over a decade and with each passing year I can tell you with certainty that for us, selling at retail is very personal. I also understand the lure of shopping on-line. As an Amazon customer and seller, I value the platform the web has given us to connect with people well beyond the city limits. And yet, it pales in comparison to waiting on a new or returning customer who walks in for the first or 40th time.
The business of retail just became personal in Mitchell. The loss of jobs, fewer choices and an uncertain future for brick and mortar locations. However, as I turn the key in the door this week I will be thinking about my hard-working colleagues on main street, and all over the city who would love to get to know you-personally.