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EDITORIAL: Demise of local Bon-Ton, Sears stores shows online shopping comes at a cost

York Dispatch
  • The Bon-Ton Stores are on their way to closure.
  • The Bon-Ton is one of York County's longest-running employers.
  • Sears stores in York and Hanover are also headed for closure.
  • Those closures are just part of a larger national and international trend.

It’s easy, it’s convenient and it’s often cheaper.

Online shopping, however, does not come without a cost, for all of us.

The Bon-Ton Stores are headed for closure. The stores have long employed a large number of York County residents. YORK DISPATCH FILE PHOTO

That point was driven home in the past few weeks in York County.

First, the news broke that one of York County's longest-running employers is on its way to closure after a group of liquidators submitted the winning bid in The Bon-Ton Stores' bankruptcy auction.

Then, about a week later, Sears Holdings announced the company will close its location at the York Galleria. The store will be open to the public through early August and a liquidation sale will begin May 18. The company had previously announced that the Sears store in Hanover would also be closing.

Free market at work: Of course, this is just part of a larger national and international trend.

Bon-Ton will close after liquidators win bankruptcy auction

As most of us know by now, brick-and-mortar retail stores are struggling mightily these days.

To many, this is just capitalism at work. Online companies can provide goods cheaper and more conveniently, so they thrive, while brick-and-mortar stores shut down.

It’s the natural evolution of a free-market economy. There are winners and losers. It’s been that way for centuries.

Additionally, it should be noted that the news is not all bad for local brick-and-mortar outlets. Renovations are underway for Gander Outdoors, which is set to replace the shuttered Gander Mountain store at West Manchester Town Center. That is the exception, however, rather than the rule.

Gander Outdoors on track to open this month in West Manchester

Closures come at a cost: Still, there's little doubt that the closures will come at a real cost to us all in lost jobs, lost tax revenue and even a lost sense of community that shopping that can bring us, especially during the holiday season.

Then there’s the question of what poor folks, who may have little or no Internet access, are supposed to do when there are few actual retail stores left to shop in.

Sears at the York Galleria to close in August

In addition, it should be noted that this isn’t just a problem for bigger retailers, such as Sears or Bon-Ton. It’s also a major issue for locally-owned, mom-and-pop shops. When you visit Amazon and buy something at the click of a button, that’s a sale that could have helped an area small retailer stay in business.

Trickle-down impact: This sea change in our spending habits is going to have a major impact on states and municipalities that rely heavily on retail stores for tax revenue.  That, in turn, is going to inevitably lead to higher tax bills for all us.

In the long run, the trickle-down impact will hit all of us.

There’s no doubt that the brick-and-mortar stores bear much of the responsibility for their difficulties. They didn’t react adeptly enough to a changing market place. Now they are left desperately trying to play catch-up. They must reinvent themselves and focus more on the shopping “experience” and immediate customer service. That’s something the online outlets can’t easily offer.

Fortunately, it’s also something that smaller, more nimble retail outlets have long excelled at, which hopefully will bode well for the long-term survival of local small businesses.

Issues to keep in mind: These are all issues we need to keep in mind the next time we use a couple clicks to buy a toaster, instead of going to a brick-and-mortar store.

In the short term, you may save yourself money, time and a hassle, but in the long term, there will be a cost to bear, too.