The News Editorial
Life after Shopko
June 13, 2019
What does life after Shopko look like?
Shopko closed last month in Worland. Shopko stores have closed around the Big Horn Basin and across the state. Worland has been proactive in reacting to the closure, not allowing one big box chain store closing define us or determine our future.
Local economic development groups in all four Big Horn Basin Shopko communities worked with the Wyoming Business Council and the National Main Street Center on conducting a study and survey for “life after Shopko.”
A webinar last Wednesday provided insight and analysis from the tour of the Basin, the survey and national trends.
One recommendation was having events so businesses can showcase what they have to offer and Worland was ahead of the curve with Frandson Safety, Smudge Prints and JAM Designs having already planned their Friday fashion show to showcase what they offer in the community.
Events should also bring people downtown and provide an opportunity for businesses to stay open beyond their regular hours, it was suggested. Again, something Worland does with Harvest Fest, Halloween main street trick-or-treating and the Christmas parade.
Another suggestion was working with businesses to try and recapture products that have been lost with Shopko closing. Worland businesses started on that right away after the closure announcement came.
However, with that said, one of things that Matt Wagner, vice president of National Main Street Center revitalization program, said during last week’s webinar is that there are some areas that will be hard to recapture — electronics and apparel being at the top of the list. He said electronics have been moving toward the online market for years and in more recent years the online trend has been with apparel.
Apparel is hard because there are so many styles and sizes and it is hard for a mom and pop store to provide enough variety to appeal to an entire community.
The niche, Wagner said, is in thrift clothing stores and specialty boutiques, both of which Worland offers.
Some other recommendations came directly from survey results. One has to be cautious when considering survey results. While organizers were excited about the more than 500 responses, considering the populations of the four counties, that’s a fairly low percentage.
The survey showed that evenings and Saturdays are when the majority of people taking the survey shop or prefer to shop.
Wagner said stores need to look at the hours and days they are open for their customers and to realize that sometimes people may have a desire to shop locally but when they need something they may not find the local store open in order to make the local purchase.
For small local businesses finding the right balance of days and hours to be open can be difficult while juggling business and home life.
One thing that wasn’t mentioned, that I would like to offer up, is no matter what the hours, be consistent. Customers need to know when you are open.
Another thing not mentioned was customer service. Customers need to feel valued and that their business is important and welcomed, and not feel like they are a burden.
I recall an incident where a Big Horn Basin car dealership (this was in 2004) advertised Memorial Day deals. My husband and I had time on Memorial Day weekend to go car shopping. We knew the car we wanted. With my schedule working for a newspaper, finding time to shop isn’t always easy. We traveled out of town to the dealer (Lovell did not have a new car dealership) and found the sales manager was closing up as we got there (it was still morning). So we traveled another hour to Billings, found a dealership open and a salesman who wanted our business.
Times like these, with Shopko closing and organizations offering recommendations, provide an opportunity for businesses to evaluate how we do business and if we can do it better.
The survey also addressed factors in deciding where to shop — price, quality, convenience being among the choices.
For me it was all of the above. I’m willing to pay more if I know the quality is better and the product will last longer. I believe in the adage of “You get what you pay for.” I like convenience. I factor in my time, gas and other expenses when I feel I have to go out of town for a product. (This is one reason people are going online to shop.)
Regarding price, I know several businesses in Worland willing to work with customers to provide online pricing and working to offer competitive prices offered in other communities.
Worland is doing some things right. Businesses are working toward the future. We need to give them a chance. Find out what the businesses offer and find out exactly what kind of businesses are here in Worland.
Businesses also need to provide ways to let customers know they are here and what they offer. It takes all of us to work toward building a better Worland, and working for the future.