FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The way people shop impacts their communities and the people who work in the retail industry.
National chains continue to announce closings, blaming competition from online shopping companies. The trend is apparent in the Fort Wayne area, putting people out of work and leaving buildings empty.
“Retail is the third largest employing industry in northeast Indiana, behind manufacturing and health care,” explained Rick Farrant, Northeast Indiana Works Director of Communications.
For that reason, so many people are keeping an ear out on what chains are next to close stores in the area.
While empty buildings where some of those stores operated are visible, the people who worked inside them are most effected by the change in the way the retail industry is changing.
“I guess that’s reality,” Associate Professor of Marketing Nichaya Suntornpithug added. “You have to move [the employees] to do something more valuable for the customers.”
For those who are losing their jobs, there is hope for something better.
“Some of the skills [the employees] learned in retail are very transferable to other industries and are also coveted by other industries,” Farrant said. “Two of those skills that retail is very good at helping people excel at, are customer service and teamwork.”
WorkOne Northeast helps unemployed workers develop those skills. The people there caution not every store is closing, so workers shouldn’t panic, but it’s worth checking out other career options.
“Take a look around and see at where the growth industries are,” Farrant added. “Take a look at what skills industries are needing and look at your career path and see what kind of steps you might want to take to elevate your skills and potentially elevate your income.”
While the trend of chain stores closing is happening in northeast Indiana, another trend is happening, easing that burden.
“In Fort Wayne, we’ve been a little more nimble in some cases,” Greater Fort Wayne Inc. Director of Business Development Kirk Moriarty said. “We’ve got some very good locally owned and operated retailers who are turning things around and finding creative ways to address some of those issues.”
Many of those “issues” come from the uptick in online shopping. Small, local retailers, have the advantage over the big box stores in finding creative solutions, especially in the Summit City.
“One of the things that’s great about this community is it still has that neighborly mindset, small town nature, from the standpoint that you say ‘hi’ and ‘hello’ to those you pass on the sidewalk,” Moriarty added. “You know and are closer to your customers, therefore, you are more quickly able to adapt to any changing trends.”
While more and more of the small stores are popping up, they aren’t filling those big box spots. The people at Greater Fort Wayne say some of those buildings are being eyed for other businesses, as many national companies see the Fort Wayne market as a new place to expand to.
“We know there’s a great deal of activity out there,” Moriarty added. “We know many people are looking at those big box stores or vacant lots, that are available.There’s a great deal of interest here in Fort Wayne, and there is a great deal of interest nationally in Fort Wayne, that’s the paradigm that’s happened over the past 5 to 7 years and we’re going to keep the ball rolling.”
“Shop Talk” – A series of special reports, will continue throughout May on First News and on wane.com.