By: Margaret Dillard – Chamber President
ABOVE: JCPenney Fairmont, a long-standing staple of our local retail economy, shocked area residents when plans to close the store were announced.
With express checkout online options, it’s so easy to buy almost anything from the comfort of your couch. In fact, many consumers mute the television while listening to tunes and both may have messages that contribute to online sales. Reinforcing local retail means Martin County and Fairmont community members choose to shop local first.
Brick and mortar stores around the world are feeling the pinch. E-commerce was the star this past Christmas. The trend has come home for all of Minnesota with Minneapolis and Mankato losing multiple retailers, and sadly it has come to greatly affect us with the announcement that the Fairmont JCPenney Store will close in June. Employees and consumers alike are stunned.
Community government, organizations and agencies here are good at responding to needs such as these. The workforce center has programs to help dislocated workers and help employees find other work. The City of Fairmont EDA is already collecting valuable information that will aid in the search for businesses interested in leasing the space. Fairmont Area Chamber Board of Directors turned their sights to helping with the petition at Change.org.
Shop Martin County! For a while now, Ignite, the economic development arm of Martin County has sponsored a shop local campaign on KSUM. Both local newspapers support several efforts throughout the year and our monthly publication contains educational blurbs about how dollars spent locally support local infrastructure.
In the coming months, we’ll beef up our efforts to support local businesses. One change you’ll notice as soon as we get the wrinkles ironed out concerns Chamber Bucks. For decades, business people and residents have purchased these certificates which are honored in almost every store throughout Martin County. Once turned in to stores, they were delivered to our office to be exchanged for a check of face value. Soon, retailers will be able to redeem them by including them in their bank deposits. Chamber Bucks are good for business because they are valid only at Martin County businesses. The new design will sport a shop local logo.
We will participate in two national programs. SBA sponsors a push in April and American Express rolls out an invitation to shop at home in November. Last year, Chamber staff helped downtown merchants organize and promote a game where shoppers could win prizes. Some stores advertised specials and hosted refreshments to encourage sales.
Volunteers are needed to pull together a Retail Task Force to brainstorm and address the state of local retail. Volunteers are needed, but more success will be had if a champion for retail in Martin County will join forces with the staff and board of the Fairmont Area Chamber. If this call to action is tugging at you, contact me at the Chamber office to discuss. We will stand with you to create a more dynamic local retail environment!
Call the JCPenney customer service line to voice your concerns