Shop Talk: Big year for ‘big box’ closings

Store closing signs hanging in the windows of MC Sports after the chain announced it would be closing up shop.


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) More than 700 big box stores have closed across the country over the past few years and that trend is expected to continue in a big way in 2017.

In a new series of First News special reports, we’re taking a closer look at how your shopping habits are changing the retail landscape.

So-called ‘big box’ stores are being replaced with small boutiques and online giants.

“Baby boomers were the core customers of retail shopping,” IPFW Associate Professor of Marketing Nichaya Suntornpithug commented. “Now they are retiring or already retired, so now the big portion is coming from millenials.”

Like the circle of life, the retail business seems to be in a cycle. Small shops were once the normal place to buy, but over the past 50 years, bigger chain stores took over, offering a wider selection of items in a more convenient environment.

HHGregg located at 4201 Parnell Avenue in Fort Wayne.

That trend is changing now, giving business experts something to study.

“Big box retailers like Macy’s, Kohls, JC Penny, Sears… they’ve closed so many stores since 2013. Over 700 stores,” Suntornpithug explained.

In Fort Wayne hhgregg on Parnell Ave. is closing after the bankrupt company failed to find a buyer.

Family Christian stores at Jefferson Pointe and Coldwater Crossing are finishing their liquidation sales. The company blames changing customer behavior and sliding sales for the closures.

Teen clothing chain Rue 21 is closing a third of their stores, including one in Orchard Crossing. That store has struggled against online competition.

MC Sports is on its way out of the business after also filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The JCPenney store in Huntington is among five in Indiana slated for closure as part of the retailer’s plans to optimize its operations.

“Stronger retailers are going to be stronger. The weaker are going to disappear.” Suntornpithug stressed.

Huntington’s JCPenney is closing. That store is not not far from an empty Kmart building.

One thing appears to be in common with these closings, people are spending their money in different places and the biggest factor in the equation appears to be the internet.

“The next question is going to be how big box stores are going to survive or thrive,” Suntornpithug added. “They have to learn from online stores.”

“Shop Talk” – A series of special reports, will continue throughout May on First News and on wane.com.