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Kmart's Ohio Departure Just Part of the Continuing Decline of Discount Retailers

photo of Kmart Tallmadge
The Tallmadge Kmart will remain open until February, but other locations will close in December.

The closing of the last seven Kmarts in Ohio should serve as a sign to other retailers about what they need to do to stay competitive.

University of Akron economics professor Amanda Weinstein focuses on trends in retail and the labor force. She says there was a time when stores like Kmart could compete on price. But that was before Amazon and online shopping. Going forward, she says retailers need to instead focus on offering an experience that makes shopping enjoyable, or on services that aren’t available online.

“They have people interaction: so maybe Best Buy focuses on its interaction with its tech specialists for computers [and] for TVs – hooking up your TV – [and] all those kinds of services that Amazon just doesn’t provide.”

Weinstein adds that what attracted people to department stores initially was the concept of shopping as something enjoyable.

“Because we need more than that. With our busy lives and families, you have to bring something else to us. Whether it’s the services that store provides or it’s having entertainment and a play set for the kids and a splash pad, but then it also has shopping and restaurants and bars – you have to provide a whole lot more for us to think that this is fun.”

In recent years, chains such as JCPenney, Macy’s and Sears have also closed stores in Ohio. Many of those spaces have been transformed into either self-storage units or Amazon warehouses. Weinstein adds that another possible use for empty stores in the future will be as senior health and wellness facilities.

The following Kmart stores in Ohio are closing:

Barberton (241 Wooster Road North)

Brunswick (3301 Center Road)

Grove City (2400 Stringtown Road)

Harrison (10560 Harrison Ave.)

Marietta (502 Pike St.)

North Canton (1447 N Main St.)

Tallmadge (555 South Ave.)

An additional location in Fostoria is listed on the Kmart website, but it closed earlier this year.

Weinstein on the past -- and future -- of retail

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.