The Effective Reuse of Big Box Stores

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

You may have noticed recently that big box retailers all over the country are shutting their doors. Sears, Macy’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, CVS, the list goes on and on. Though the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our economy may account for some of the most recent closures, box stores have been closing for quite some time. Approximately 9,300 store closings were announced in the United States in 2019. Experts predicted this number to rise in 2020, estimating as many as 12,000 major chain stores to close — and that was before the pandemic.

Fergus Falls has seen the effects of these closures first-hand. Our community has experienced the loss of retailers like Target, Sunmart, and Kmart. In 2019, Shopko filed for bankruptcy and became the latest in the line of box store closures.

The Changing Landscape of Retail

It’s no secret that retail has begun to change over the years. Online shopping has provided retailers with a cost-effective way to reach consumers with fewer brick and mortar stores. The combination of online retail and different economic factors has contributed to closures of box stores everywhere.

For many retailers, the decision to close a store is never made lightly. It often comes after a lengthy evaluation process, which was the case when Target decided to close a dozen stores in 2018 — including the Fergus Falls location. At the time of the closure, Target spokeswoman, Kristy Welker, explained:

"We have a rigorous process in place to evaluate the performance of every store on an annual basis, closing or relocating underperforming locations as needed. Typically, a store is closed as a result of seeing several years of decreasing profitability."

These closures can have a pretty significant impact on rural communities, including lost jobs and tax revenues. While the same can’t be said for every community, Fergus Falls is lucky enough to be able to provide workers with similar positions at locally owned small businesses. Many of the businesses in our community also offer the same or similar goods that you would find at a box store. In the case of lost tax revenue, it’s crucial to note that property taxes are still being collected based on the building’s assessed value.

While multi-faceted, one of the most challenging parts of losing a big retailer is finding a way to fill the empty space that the store leaves behind. This is no easy feat, especially with today’s changing retail landscape.

But it’s not impossible.

Empty retail spaces like Target or Shopko provide a unique opportunity for redevelopment. Developers all over the nation are finding creative and outside the box ways to repurpose big box stores. These successful redevelopment pr