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Howes: Today’s shopping habits leave Sears, Kmart in the dust

Mar 23, 2017

They used to be a shopper’s first choice.

These days, Sears and Kmart seem to be on a fast track to extinction.

For many families in Michigan, Sears or Kmart used to be the first place they went for clothing, toys, tools, anything for the house or even the car. 

Now, you can sit in your pajamas and order those same items with your laptop or mobile device and they arrive on your doorstep.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes wrote about the downfall of big box stores in his latest column, and he joined Stateside to talk about the latest dose of dire news about Sears and Kmart.   

"A lot of these stores tended to be in older suburbs and locations that people kind of left behind," Howes said. "These legacy companies just didn't keep up with what was happening in the marketplace. And they were essentially fighting the last retail war and retail was changing and shifting underneath them and they were not able to scramble."

Those changes in the marketplace were largely driven by the shift in shopping habits to online retailers. But, as Howes pointed out, in a lot of industries, companies re-invent themselves.

For example, they've had their ups and downs, but the Big Three automakers are still around after a century or so.

"I think people are getting to the point where they're going to make choices," Howes said. "I've long believed that economic behavior has consequences. If you lived in Michigan, for example, and you decided you were going to go out and buy your Honda, or buy your Toyota – you've made a choice. And that has an implication and an impact on the companies that live and operate in your community and employ your neighbors and friends."

This applies to e-commerce, too. Do you want to order things online or support the local guy? These decision have consequences.

Listen to the full interview above to hear the latest on Sears and Kmart, and a discussion about malls and how the closing of these big stores is leaving a big hole to fill. Some communities are developing some interesting ideas.

Daniel Howes is a columnist with The Detroit News. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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