- Matt Sanctis Staff Writer
Two Clark County retail stores are closing, but local officials said they are optimistic a recent deal with a Texas-based retail recruitment firm will eventually draw more options for area shoppers.
Layne Bryant, a plus-size clothing store, will close its location at 1642 N. Bechtle Ave. on Jan. 21, according to a sign posted at the store’s entrance. Employees at the store declined to comment Monday, and the company’s corporate office did not return a call seeking comment.
BonWorth, a discount clothing chain at the Upper Valley Mall, closed late last month. Company officials at BonWorth also did not return a call seeking comment Monday.
It is not clear how many employees would be impacted.
It’s also not clear why either store closed, but it is the latest in a series of retail chains that have closed locations in Clark County in recent years.
Despite those closures, the region has also recently attracted retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods, a remodeled Aldi Grocery store and a Rural King location in German Twp.
County officials recently voted to spend $50,000 to work with Buxton Co., a retail recruitment firm that has pledged to work to attract new stores to the Upper Valley Mall and other locations throughout Clark County. Officials with Buxton Co. could not be reached for comment Monday.
“Hopefully the new company that is looking at that will tell us the type of retail that should be coming in,” said George Degenhart, planning and zoning director in German Twp.
Buxton Co., based in Fort Worth, has pledged to work to attract new stores to the Upper Valley Mall and other locations throughout Clark County. Buxton uses analytic data to identify retailers that might be a good fit for specific communities.
Retailers are undergoing significant changes as shoppers increasingly shop online, said Gordon Gough, president and CEO of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants.
That doesn’t mean shopping at brick-and-mortar stores is ending, but retailers that want to remain competitive need to figure out how their customers want to shop and what products they’re looking for, Gough said.
“Shopping is still a social experience.” Gough said. “A lot of us have big-screen TV’s at home, but we still go to the theaters to see movies. There’s still a need to go to brick-and-mortar stores, but it depends on what the consumer wants and how he or she wants it.”
Tonya Herring, of Springfield, said she didn’t typically shop at either Lane Bryant or BonWorth, but said her shopping habits have changed. She said she prefers to shop locally, but often does her shopping online for convenience. As department stores like Macy’s and JCPenney have closed in Springfield, she also shops more frequently in Beavercreek as well.
“To me, you get better deals because of the return policies, and they ship right to your home,” Herring said of online shopping.
She also said customers are increasingly savvy about shopping. Her grandchildren often check prices on their phones, and she recently drove back from Beavercreek to buy shoes at the Upper Valley Mall after finding a better price in Springfield.
Veola Moore, of Springfield, also said she’s noticed more discount stores opening in Clark County instead of traditional department stores.
In Clark County, officials from Springfield, the chamber and county officials are looking for creative ways to keep shoppers inside the county limits, Degenhart said.
“We know for a fact — and we have experienced — retail is changing,” Degenhart said. “The question is what is it changing to and what is the future? We are changing as a community, and I think there’s a number of things we can do jointly.”
Many of the area’s retail losses have occurred at the Upper Valley Mall, although the mall has also added more locally-owned stores like Raven Books and Epic Loot Games and Comics.
Retailer Rue 21 said in late October the company was moving its store out of the mall and into a new location on Bechtle Avenue. The mall has also seen several national chains leave in recent years, including anchors like JCPenney and Macy’s. The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, which drew thousands of visitors annually, also closed its location there, citing declining foot traffic.
“Retailers are responding to consumer demand,” Gough said. “If consumers want to shop at certain stores, the retailers are going to be there. You’re just having fundamental disruptive shifts in the retail industry. Communities are changing because a lot of things are going online.”