The latest casualty of the nation’s changing retail landscape is JCPenney.
The company announced last week that it will close its Midway Mall location in Elyria as of July 5.
JCPenney plans to shutter 18 department stores and nine home and furniture shops in 2019.
That’s actually far better than some analysts had predicted — many thought the declining retailer would close more than 100 locations as shoppers increasingly shun the brick-and-mortar model in favor of online retailers such as Amazon.
JCPenney still operates more than 800 stores across the nation but malls have fallen out of favor since the heyday of the 1980s and 1990s.
That’s a story well-known by anyone who’s stopped at Midway Mall recently.
The site suffered the closure of Dillard’s in 2007, Macy’s in 2016, and Sears in 2017. It will now be anchored by Best Buy and Dunham’s Sports.
JCPenney was one of the four big tenants at Midway Mall when it opened in 1965, along with Higbee’s, Sears, and Woolworth’s.
The new round of closures comes as the company reported its fourth quarter and fiscal year 2018 earnings.
It showed year-over-year sales down three percent with a full-year net income loss of $255 million.
“As we forge a path to sustainable profitable growth, our decisions included eliminating non-core and low gross margin product categories, significantly reducing unproductive inventory, and continuing the revitalization of our women’s apparel business,” said CEO Jill Soltau. “While we are pleased with these actions, we know we need to move faster to reestablish the fundamentals of retail, build capabilities focused on satisfying our customers’ wants and needs, and ensure that our digital and store operations operate seamlessly to provide an experience that wins with customers.”
Amazon and other e-tailers have cut the legs out from many traditional department stores. A 2016 survey by Pew Research found that eight in 10 Americans are now online shoppers, up from just 22 percent in 2000.
But there are other challenges as well.
First, recession took a huge toll. Bruck-and-mortar stores have often very high per-square-foot rent to pay. They have limited floor space, which means a limited selection of goods. They have to deal with shoplifters and security. And younger customers are generally more frugal with their money, moving away from extravagances such as high-end jewelry or designer clothing.
The changes have been the death knell for chains such as Kmart and Sears, which are all but gone now from Ohio. Another recent victim is Payless ShoeSource, which in February announced it will close all of its 2,300 stores in the United States.
That doesn’t mean all traditional retailers are doomed. Far from it.
Kohl’s is experimenting with grocery centers in some of its locations and Wal-Mart and Target are offering pick-up service in an attempt to win customers.
Meanwhile, some chains such as Meijer are aggressively building. The Michigan-based retailer plans to open a new Avon location late this spring; another Meijer super center is expected to open in 2020 at the site of the former Lorain Super Kmart on Cooper Foster Park Road, which closed in 2016.