The retail environment is changing across the country and Fergus Falls is no different…or is it?
Over the past two months, Chamber President Lisa Workman and Greater Fergus Falls CEO Annie Deckert have visited retailers in the community, including, but not limited to Sears, Dunham’s, Home Depot, Fleet Farm, Radio Shack/Design Electronics, Maurices, Walmart, Walgreens and more. “We are proud to report that of the businesses visited, 100% indicated they are doing very well,” said Deckert. “A few stores boast sales at or near the top of their region or nationwide which is a testament to our community’s desire to support local businesses, including major retailers,” added Workman.
A recent news report stated that there has been a 29% increase in retail store closings as of July 2019 as compared to the number of closings that occurred in all of 2018. An estimated 12,000 stores are set to close by year-end with several others up for consideration. Industry insiders claim that an estimated 75,000 stores will close by 2026 if e-commerce rises to 25% from its current level of 16%. “As a regional center, we don’t want to see any more stores close. We’re working together with GFF and our local retailers to do everything we can to assist them being successful in Fergus Falls,” said Workman. Local sales numbers indicate that people truly understand the value and impact of shopping locally.
CEO Annie Deckert says “With the monumental shift in society’s shopping patterns and habits, it’s more crucial than ever that we are choosing local when purchasing goods and services. It is important our local business owners and retailers are familiar with our (GFF & the Chamber) services and know that we are here to do everything we can to support them and best position them for success.”
The main challenges businesses report facing are finding quality employees to fill vacancies. “We want to encourage residents to take advantage of the additional seasonal openings. Now is the perfect time to land a ‘side hustle’ and pay down debt or save for a vacation. You’d also make our retailers more successful – it’s a win-win situation when you shop with or work for our retailers,” added Workman.
While the majority of recent closures have yet to directly impact Fergus Falls, GFF and the Chamber know that pre-emptive efforts are imperative. As an objective, the Chamber is collaborating with GFF for an enhanced Business Retention & Expansion (BRE) program “Grow Fergus Falls!” The team will create and execute an outreach element that targets not only potentially affected retailers but all local retailers. We want to ensure we are not duplicating efforts but partnering with entities to make a larger impact.
To find out more, contact Lisa Workman at the Fergus Falls Area Chamber of Commerce: 218-736-6951 or Annie Deckert, Greater Fergus Falls: 218-321-2079.