Upcoming closure of Shopko bad news for community, region

The recently announced closure of more than 250 Shopko stores across several states is not a good thing for shoppers here in the Upper Peninsula, but it may be an unfortunate sign of the times.

The Shopko in Marquette near McClellan Avenue and Washington Street has been open for decades, with the Shopko Hometown having taken over a good number of years ago for the old Pamida store at its location along U.S. 41.

The latter is not included on Shopko’s most recent list of store closures, but the former is expected to shutter its doors in May.

Other Shopko stores in the U.P. set to close include those in Escanaba, Houghton, Calumet, Wetmore and L’Anse. The Manistique Shopko is expected to remain in operation, at least for the time being.

The Wisconsin-based Shopko corporation has plans to significantly downsize its operating footprint, with the hopes it will be able to fight back from bankruptcy, which the retailer filed for on Jan. 16 in Nebraska. In that filing, according to the Green Bay Press Gazette, Shopko cited assets of less than $1 billion and debts between $1 billion and $10 billion.

So, as a matter of restructuring and regrouping, Shopko’s plan is to close about 250 stores, sell off its pharmacy assets and transition its optical centers to standalone operations.

It’s certainly a tough situation to be in, but Shopko may not be alone in facing such challenging circumstances.

We’ve got to believe part of the concern for just about any brick-and-mortar business out there is the ever-encroaching online retail industry, swooping in to take a larger percentage of the market share.

As our technologies continue to progress and expand, the ability to order our shirts and pants online has become much easier.

With a simple click of the mouse or a tap of the finger on your smartphone screen, you can buy all sorts of things from the comfort of your own couch, even groceries, and with all the goods being delivered right to your front door.

Sure, with the recent cold and snowy weather we’ve had here in the U.P., it sounds pretty good when you don’t have to leave the house for a few days, and you can just sit back and wait for your deliveries to arrive.

But there are unfortunate drawbacks should the online shopping sprees completely take over as our preferred method of purchasing — the main downside being the loss of local jobs. Even though these corporations and big box stores are owned by out-of-state entities and people, they still need local bodies to man the registers and stock the shelves.

With Shopko’s closures, more than a few of our friends and neighbors will be laid off, and then there’s the potential loss of tax revenue to local municipalities.

In Marquette, following Shopko’s closure, the question of what to do with yet another big vacant building will need to be answered.

There are several other retailers, some of them new, in the Marquette area that the local Shopko was competing with for shoppers. That, along with the online shopping world likely played a part in the store’s viability.

Shopko’s announced closures is not good news for the area, but it may be a sign of the times.

In our opinion, a balanced mix between the convenience of online shopping and the local support for brick-and-mortar shops is the best course of action. Hopefully that way, one industry doesn’t entirely consume the other.