Good Bye Retail

Today we announce the closing of Party Chick and Paper – our fun and fabulous little gift store located in Greensboro, NC. When we close our doors sometime this summer we will be just shy of our 3rd anniversary operating in Irving Park Plaza.

Party Chick was our 4th retail store following basically the same concept. We strived to bring fun and affordable party goods, gifts and invitations to our new home city – much like we had done for 10 years previously in Dallas.

While our journey featured many happy, exciting moments, the overall story is not a happy one. In fact, with the closing of our store (following in the footsteps of Polliwogs, Dolce Di Mora, Coco Loco, Miller Monograms, Me and E and so many more) I can honestly say that while brick and mortar retail is not yet dead – it is on serious life support.

There is never one single reason that a business does not succeed. However I can honestly say that all arrows point towards one major culprit – the internet. Online businesses like Amazon are quickly killing storefront business across America as customers turn more often to click and shop.

For a while we tried to compete in the online game but that, too, is a tough nut to crack. It costs thousands of dollars to have a website “optimized” so that the site can be found on the world wide web and as soon as the optimization is completed it’s time to start over again. Additionally shipping costs continue to climb at a rapid pace, effectively killing any profit that would have otherwise been realized. It’s no wonder that Amazon, Wayfair and others have lost hundreds of millions of dollars.

This year more than 18,000 retail stores are expected to close across the US. 18,000. That’s 18,000 more vacant store fronts. That’s 18,000 more landlords that will suffer a significant drop in income. That’s 18,000 fewer companies paying local taxes. The future of commercial real estate is almost as scary as the future of retail. There simply are not enough nail salons, dentist offices and yoga salons to take up the pending glut of space that is soon to be available. Even top popular centers like Friendly Center here in Greensboro are having challenges filling empty spaces. What will happen when 18K more stores close?

It is imperative that we as a citizenship face this challenge and prepare for this future reality. It is imperative that we stop re-zoning land to retail use. We need to create a new era of converting vacant commercial space back to housing / residential including affordable and senior housing solutions. Empty or near-empty shopping centers must be given a time to redevelop or re-conceptulaize – we can not afford to have a city of half empty shopping centers especially as we attempt to attract new employers to the area. We need to look at the city’s tax base and reimagine how we will raise funds once sales taxes have diminished.

So, too, we need to plan a future for our kids. Once the stores are gone where will our children turn for their first jobs? Where will they learn to work with multi-generations, multi-cultures and multi-socio-economic populations? Where will they learn how to work for their money, to provide customer service, to handle money and to understand how business is transacted? Where will they earn the dollars to put into a savings account to begin learning that process of preparing for the future?

Yes, closing our store is sad and a little scary. But it is not nearly as scary as what is happening to our community, our cities and our nation.