Closing time

With more consumers using online retailers, several brick-and-mortar stores are facing the consequences

Photo credit: Katelynn Mulder


For senior Reagan Bastien, it’s a tradition to shop during the holidays. However, this year is unlike any other. Instead of driving to brick-and-mortars, she’ll be clicking away online because like many shoppers, Bastien enjoys the convenience of shopping online.

“It’s easier than going in store,” she said. “There’s definitely a lot more sales that I find online, and I feel like they are more readily available. You can always tell when an online store has a sale. They make it very apparent. I don’t always find a lot of good sales in stores, so it’s definitely easier online.”

According to Forbes Media, success of online retailers like Amazon, Alibaba and eBay led to over 3,500 store closings in 2017, including Claire’s on Mack Avenue in Detroit, Sears at Macomb Mall in Roseville, Family Dollar on Gratiot Avenue in Eastpointe, Macy’s at Eastland Center in Harper Woods and Kmart on Harper Avenue in St. Clair Shores. The Barnes & Noble on Mack will also close, but not because of bankruptcy. According to The Detroit News, the store’s lease expired, and they couldn’t come to an agreement on a new one.

Business teacher Dennis Koch said Grosse Pointe residents caused many stores to close because consumer behaviors are changing, as is foot traffic.

“I think that the closing of stores has an emotional effect on the surrounding community depending on your age and life experience. Some stores have more of an emotional connection,” Koch said. “Nowadays, people don’t go to the mall to just see Santa Claus as much, but people of my generation or older really enjoy that type of Christmas or holiday experience — something the younger generation may never experience.”

Sophomore Olga Stathis mainly shops online because of the recent store closings, but she said there is a large consumer base that enjoys shopping at stores.

“I’m very disappointed that many stores here on the east side are closing, especially since the nearest ones are far away,” Stathis said. “I like going shopping, but I don’t want to have to have a long drive and worry about my safety. We do have the Village, but there is nothing there. It’s lacking.”

Over the past five years, stores in the Village have been slowly disappearing. Due in part to large chain stores taking away the traffic, businesses like Peet’s Coffee and Borders have not been able to survive. Stathis believes as shopping online becomes more accessible and convenient, the in-store traffic will continue to be snatched away from these large chain stores and redirected to the online shopping scene.

Despite the shift, Bastien said there are still many disadvantages to online shopping.

“You’re not getting that face-to-face interaction with online shopping,” Bastien said. “I don’t want to see places close because I know that a lot of people still enjoy the physical shopping like going to stores and looking at gifts, so I hope it can find a balance between the two.”

In 2005, Amazon launched their subscription service Amazon Prime. Avid online shoppers, including Stathis, receive benefits like free shipping, exclusive deals and video, music and ebook streaming.

Koch said one of Amazon’s competitive advantages is Prime because of the deals their offer consumers.

“I think that any service that any store retailer has encourages shopping, discount shopping, convenient shopping, any of those things help the consumer make those decisions,” Koch said. “If you help me make those decisions, you’re going to help make my life easier.”

Even though many retail stores are closing, some companies like Costco are opening new stores in Michigan. The world’s largest company by revenue, Walmart, has also taken steps to increase their traditional retail presence by increasing prices online, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“It depends on the specific industry. I think shoppers need to go to places to touch things, to feel things, to try out things. For instance, certain stores will always do well when there is a certain consumer experience involved,” Koch said. “In that instance, I think the brick-and-mortar store will stay.”

Although there are many benefits to online shopping, the federal government reported that about 30,000 jobs were lost in March because of the closings. But, Koch said technological advances, especially in the retail business, can’t be avoided.

“All things evolve and since technology and the online shopping experience continue to evolve and make things more efficient cheaper,” he said. “If that makes our lives better, then I am all for it. At one point, people were hesitant to a refrigerator and a cellphone. Those things have become the new norm. This whole piece of online shopping will become the norm as well.”