The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.

Western Courier

Retail decline spells trouble

Jason Adams

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No one doubts that we live in an electronic age; computers and smartphones are everywhere, and everyone seems to have one. Pew Research has shown that over 75 percent of Americans own a smartphone. On these devices, we have a number of apps dedicated for shopping, whether it’s for an online powerhouse like Amazon, store apps like Target or Sears, or even small business apps like Wish or Itsy. Nearly everything in the world is an app and a credit card away. And with services like express shipping or Amazon Prime, we can get whatever we want in a matter of days as long as we’re willing to pay a little extra. The world is our oyster and you can find a great deal for the pearl on Groupon. But what if you want something right now and can’t wait for it to come the next day? Then you could always go to the store and get it, or can you?

CNN has recently reported that a whopping 8,600 brick-and-mortar retail stores could close this year across the nation. According to that same report, that’s 6,000 more than last year and is even worse than the current record of 6,136 retail stores that closed in 2008, the beginning of the most recent financial crisis. The jump in online sales has killed many brick-and-mortar stores as more retail corporations are realizing it’s easier to run a website and warehouse than it is to run a bunch of stores with employees and merchandise that rarely moves off the shelf. It’s also quite cheaper. Stores such as JCPenney, Macy’s and Payless ShoeSource are closing down stores across the country according to CNN. The women’s clothing store Bebe is planning on shutting down all of its brick-and-mortar stores with no word on whether they plan to go online. Even the former dominant name of retail — Sears Holdings, the corporation that owns Sears and K-Mart — admitted recently it doesn’t know how much longer it can survive.

We’ve seen this twice so far since last summer here in Macomb. K-Mart closed its doors at the end of 2016, and JCPenney will be closing its doors by the summer. While it has led to great deals and savings for whoever went to the liquidation sale, it doesn’t bode well for those companies and the people working there, or formerly working there. Unfortunately for college students, one of the biggest high school/college job areas is retail; the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the top two jobs in the U.S. are retail positions and cashiers. It’s a low or minimum wage for a job that requires little training or education. Most people leave when they get a career, or they continue to work their way up through management. With the closing of all these retail stores, that means fewer jobs for high school and college students.

With the school year ending, many students are going to be heading back home to work long summer hours and stockpile money for the fall semester. But unless you already have a job when you go back, you might be out of luck. Retail stores are looking for less seasonal employees and more year-round ones just so they don’t have to waste precious time and money on training. We may see more of a scramble for those coveted summer jobs come May and June. If you haven’t applied yet and you currently don’t have a job waiting, I recommend you start now. Summer will be here before you know it, much like college loans.

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Retail decline spells trouble