Open for business

Nationwide retail locations stay open in Marshalltown despite closing stores elsewhere in the country

T-R PHOTO Several nationwide retailers like J.C. Penney, Kmart and Payless Shoe Source have announced store closings in 2017 — Marshalltown’s locations, however, have been spared and remain open.

So far in 2017, nationwide retailers like J.C. Penney, Kmart and Payless Shoe Source have announced a number of closures around the country including several Iowa communities; Marshalltown, however, has been “fortunate” that those retailers locally are still intact.

Marshalltown Regional Partnership CEO David Barajas said large retailers may be struggling to keep up with a shift from shopping in stores to shopping online.

“I think that has caused some challenges and is really forcing our retailers of all stripes to consider marketing their products in different ways,” he said. “I think we’ve been fortunate thus far that we haven’t had a number of those national retailers that have closed.”

While many nationwide retailers have kept their doors open in Marshalltown in 2017, not all have been immune to closure in recent years. In 2014, officer supply retailer Stables shuttered its doors in town, while Radio Shack at the Marshalltown Mall followed suit in 2015.

Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lynn Olberding said there are factors at play in the community that protect businesses from having to shut their doors.

“As opportunities for retail continue to grow in some of those bigger communities, there’s just more competition,” she said. “(Marshalltown businesses) are going to be somewhat isolated because of the strong support of local residents.”

She added the Marshalltown Mall and retailers in town “tend to see very strong weekday sales,” meaning many residents take time to go shopping at local retailer locations.

Olberding said the busy lives of many families may contribute to the shift in consumption from physical store locations to online shopping.

“Peoples’ lives aren’t getting any less busy, so convenience definitely plays a role in the decisions people make,” she said. “I also think the days of families spending a Saturday shopping are pretty few and far between … people just don’t shop that way anymore.”

Barajas and Olberding said geography may be another reason for Marshalltown’s avoidance of the latest retail closures.

“We all know that we’re only 35-40 minutes from Ames, we’re less than an hour to Des Moines and we are 40-45 minutes to Altoona,” Barajas said. “We have all of that surrounding us, and it’s another reason why it’s important for us to have those differentiating-type businesses here that will keep people here and also draw people here.”

Olberding said Marshalltown is well positioned in relation to other population centers in Central Iowa. She said many Marshalltown residents choose to keep their business within the community, whether at small businesses or nationwide retailer locations in town.

Another of Marshalltown’s strengths may be a healthy small business environment.

“When we do an analysis of the retail footprint we have in the community, there are a lot of small, independently-owned businesses that provide great customer service and unique products,” Olberding said.

Barajas said Marshalltown should continue to provide a good overall business environment.

“We are in good shape and there are more opportunities for us to continue to grow those locally-owned businesses while at the same time adding more national retailers that fit into the mix of businesses we have here now,” he said. “It’s OK, and it’s actually good, to find ways to differentiate ourselves here in this community.”

For Olberding, the success of many community businesses comes down to residents shopping at and appreciating the opportunities that exist here and now.

“Marshalltown residents tend to support businesses in Marshalltown because we want them to be here,” she said. “We want them to be successful.”