Consumers pay a price when big box stores close

Shoppers crowd the shop floor at a Next department store during the Boxing Day sales at Highcross Shopping Centre in Leicester England Monday Dec. 26, 2016. (Joe Giddens/PA via AP)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Few cars are parked at the Boulevard Mall on a rainy Thursday morning.  Like many malls across America, this one in Buffalo is experiencing some changes right now including anchor stores closing up shop.

“That may change how we see malls in the future,” said Fred Floss, the Economics Department Chair at Buffalo State College.

Floss says he’s not surprised some stores are closing.

“This isn’t something new,” said Floss. “We may be hitting a tipping point where the Sears of the world are starting to run into financial problems.”

That’s as online shopping is booming.

“At this day and age, you’re getting more people doing online shopping,” said Patty Myers, a shopper who splits making purchases at the internet and physical stores.

People are making more than half of their purchases online now. According to comScore, an analytics company, 51% of items were purchased on the internet in 2016; up from 48% in 2015 and 47% in 2014.

“Everything is available,” said Tara Hogan, an avid online shopper. “I have a super busy schedule so, while it’s delayed gratification, I can do it on my time.”

Time and ease are the top two reasons people cite for enjoying online shopping.  Floss feels there will always be brick and mortar stores for some items like furniture and appliances and feels the increase in people shopping online will start to slow a little and plateau.

The department head says he feels the consumers are being impacted by the shift in shopping habits. The first way, people don’t browse as much; they stumble upon fewer items when they’re shopping online because their searches are directed toward a certain type of item.

He says logging on versus heading into stores takes away the entire shopping experience.

“We need to have a commons, of sorts,” said Floss.

He says it was once Main Street and then it became malls and now, he’s not sure what it’ll be as stores are leaving and malls are no longer where people gather.

“Whether you shopped or not, you could walk around and talk with people and you just don’t do that if you’re online.”

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