The need to support local businesses

The news that Shopko plans to close almost 70 percent of its locations nationwide — including full-size stores in Escanaba, Marquette and Houghton in the Upper Peninsula — was disappointing yet, sadly, not surprising.

Big-box retailers have been hard-pressed to keep pace in an era when consumers can hop on the internet and order much of what they need, choosing from a far greater selection than any one store can hope to offer.

That Shopko for now has spared the Kingsford store and its Hometown-style site in Iron River does soften the blow, at least to this area. But that doesn’t mean more closings might not follow as the company works to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Shopko originally announced plans to close 39 stores in December before expanding that list to more than 100 stores in January when it filed for protection from creditors. Last week’s new list added another 139 locations, bringing the total to more than 250.

The Kingsford store perhaps survived because it is among the last chain retailers left standing in the Iron Mountain area, after Sears Hometown, JC Penney and Kmart all shut down operations here in recent years.

It all again points up the importance of making sure, as consumers, to check if local retailers might stock what you’re looking for, or something similar that would work just as well, so that brick and mortar businesses — and the communities they serve — remain viable.

While the Green Bay, Wis.-based Shopko might not quite fit the “Loyal to Local” effort promoted by the Dickinson Area Economic Development Alliance, the decline continues to demonstrate the shrinking face of retail stores available in the region that the DAEDA is trying to counteract.

Virtually every loss at this point creates a gap that seemingly is visible for years, an empty storefront or building that might only disappear with demolition.

The option of being able to purchase almost anything online has been an amazing development. Yet it the same time, care must be given to continue to patronize the businesses we have here, lest we lose having a way to try on clothing or pick up an appliance when something breaks down, or any of the other items or services we now take for granted can be obtained by getting into the car or making a phone call.

— The Daily News (Iron Mountain)