Magic Valley shoppers were stunned to learn last week that Macy’s is closing at the Magic Valley Mall. Earlier this year, J.C. Penney announced its imminent closure at the Burley mall.
Is this the beginning of the end for retail in the Magic Valley?
While it’s no secret that retailers are struggling nationwide — most folks blame Amazon and the rise of online shopping — retail is surging here.
Just look across Blue Lakes Boulevard from Macy’s to see Canyon Park West, Twin Falls’ newest large retail development. The shopping center is full, and developers plan to add even more stores soon.
Downtown is bustling with new and old retail, and entrepreneurs are opening specialty shops all across the city offering wares you won’t find in the big box stores.
In a story in Tuesday’s paper about how the downtown street renovation has affected businesses there, reporter Heather Kennison wrote: “While restaurants reported a slowdown, several downtown retailers were almost overwhelmingly positive about the business they’ve seen.”
“With the construction, we did fine,” Twin Falls Sewing Center owner Larry Himple said. “We’ve been busier this summer than we ever have been.”
The retail growth is not just anecdotal. Sales tax receipts across Idaho are up 6.54 percent year over year in July, more than $9.8 million, according to the Idaho State Tax Commission. Clearly, Idahoans are having little trouble finding places to spend their money.
So don’t mistake the loss of two big national retailers as signs of major trouble. The Macy’s and Penney’s closures are more a symptom of those companies’ struggles in a global economy and less an indicator of the health of the local the economy.
Of course, our first thoughts turn to the employees of those companies. Thankfully, with unemployment so low across the region, most if not all those workers will find new jobs, perhaps some even better-paying than their former positions.
The region is also lucky to be enjoying a surge in new, skilled and high-paying manufacturing jobs. Where other towns are losing manufacturers, we’re gaining them.
And growth in our manufacturing sector is hardly showing signs of slowing. Cities across southern Idaho continue to host site visits for potential new companies, and some have hinted that the addition of several additional large manufacturers are just around the corner.
Lastly, think twice next time you shop online from a retailer without a presence in the Magic Valley. Every dollar you spend locally helps support a local family. It may not have made a difference for those workers at Macy’s and Penney’s, but it could make the difference for a local business competing in a fast-changing retail landscape.