Mercer Dean talks retail trends and how they’re impacting Macon

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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The list of retail stores nationwide filing for bankruptcy or closing all together seems to be getting longer and longer with stores like Toys R Us and Claire’s being the most recent additions. But the trend of closing stores is being felt locally too. 

With retailers in Macon like JC Penny, Target and now Kroger on Pio Nono Avenue announcing its doors closing, many residents and even a former mayor were concerned about the loss of jobs but the Dean of Mercer’s School of Business says it may not be impacting the local economy as drastically as you’d think.

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“Stores are closing but in Macon job growth is positive,” said Dean of Mercer’s School of Business Susan Gilbert.

Gilbert says retail is changing but that’s not to say business in Middle Georgia isn’t growing.

“We’re seeing many big box stores closing but it doesn’t necessarily mean consumers aren’t spending money it doesn’t mean consumers aren’t spending money inside their homes,” she said.

A survey conducted by Mercer’s School of Business showed that earnings, sales and hiring were all up for the 97 companies who participated in 2017 and are expected to keep that same pace.

“Some of the closings of big box stores that we’re seeing may have more to do with where they’re located and what else is around it than it has to do to do with the store itself,” she said.

Gilbert says retail sales are continuing to increase but how people are shopping is what’s changed.

“50% of the growth in retail sales represents online–even though the total is just at 10%.”

The rate of growth for sales online was four times that of sales in stores and millennials like Tobi Woghiren are the reason.

“I know gas is up, so I don’t like to go to the stores as much and it’s easier to find things online because you have more options, more styles and it’s like a click away. You can go to five different stores at once.”

Gilbert says what’s keeping retail stores competitive are sales you can’t get anywhere else.

“For the most part, some of those sales are exclusive to stores as well and if I can see it on sale in stores and try it on and take it home and put it on, I enjoy that a little bit more,” said Mercer student Jabril Edmondson.

But the biggest trend to look out for is destination shopping.

“They don’t just want to shop. They want to be somewhere out and about. People are going downtown to shop but they’re not going to Pio Nono Avenue. People are going to Riverside Crossing,” said Gilbert explained.

Gilbert says last year for the first time, more money was spent on digital advertisements than print, radio and television.