Black Friday shoppers in the Williamsport area this year will notice they have fewer stores to choose from. The collapse of brick and mortar retail shops continues, as Kmart in Loyalsock Township, and Dressbarn in Pennsdale recently announced they will be closing their doors soon.

The decline in local big box retailers began in 2017 with the closure of Macy’s at the Lycoming Mall. The Macy’s closing started a domino-type effect at the mall – later that year, J.C. Penney announced they were closing the Lycoming Mall store. Sears closed in January of 2018. TheBon-Ton closed several months later, as the York, Pennsylvania-based retailer announced they were closing all locations after filing for bankruptcy. Burlington Coat Factory is the only anchor store left at the mall.

Several smaller stores at the mall also closed in 2018 and 2019, including fye and TheChildren’s Place.

Outer parcel stores near Lycoming Mall were also affected. Toys R Us closed in the spring of 2018 as part of a nationwide closure of the chain. Ollie’s Bargain Outlet moved into the space a year later. Pier 1 Imports closed this past summer. At nearby Lycoming Crossings, Bed, Bath and Beyond is liquidating merchandise. The store is expected to shutter its doors by the end of the month.

And just this week, A.C. Moore announced they’ll be closing all of their 140 stores over an undetermined amount of time.

Online shopping affecting brick and mortar

The huge online retail business has contributed to the closures of these stores, as retailers cut down on their brick and mortar stores in an attempt to stay afloat financially.

Forbes questioned whether or not online shopping is killing physical stores in an article this past summer. The mix of high rents, increasing business taxes in some areas, and competition from online retailers is causing stores to either shutter operations entirely or reduce operations. Shoppers appreciate the ease and convenience of online shopping. One can search an item in a matter of seconds; see whether or not it’s in stock; select size, color, type, quantity; and pay in minutes, then sit back and wait for it to arrive. 

On the downside of course, is a shopper’s inability to touch and feel an item, try something on for size, and have it immediately upon purchase.

But as the options for physical stores decrease, shoppers--especially in Northcentral Pennsylvania--are forced to turn to online stores. 

Of course, there are always local shops--the ones who hang their “open” signs on main street and bring commerce to small towns. They offer more personal service, often a “shopping experience,” and supporting small businesses means investing in your local community. Perhaps instead of fighting crowds at the ever-shrinking option of big-box stores, wait for Small Business Saturday.

What’s your Black Friday plan?