Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

Encore: The State of Retail

Written by Rich Copeland - Producer, WITF's Smart Talk | Aug 31, 2017 8:00 PM
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East York Sears in the 1950s

On the Friday, September 1st 2017 edition of WITF's Smart Talk:

UPDATE: A recent piece in The Atlantic describes the decline in retail commerce, pointing to the e-commerce market, shopping malls and a shift in consumer spending habits as the causes.  Pennsylvania has seen the closing of many brick and mortar retailers, but the state has also experienced job growth in the online marketplace as Amazon opened a shipping center in the Lehigh Valley, adding 5,000 jobs.

Nonetehless, the Tanger Outlet expansion in Lancaster County will see the addition of 23 stores and 600 jobs while the Rockvale Outlets in East Lampeter Township defaulted on a $92 million mortgage earlier this summer and is facing an exodus of retailers - some of whom are moving to Tanger.

Brands like Sears, Kmart and JC Penney have been ubiquitous with America's retail landscape.   That's why it becomes jarring to learn that today there are 695 Sears-owned retail locations - compared to 3,500 in 2010.   J. C. Penney is scheduled to close 140 stores nationwide this summer.  At its height, Radio Shack had 7,300 comapny-owned stores.  Today there are less than 70.  Staples, Macy's, The Bon-Ton, Payless Shoes - they've all seen store closures in Pennsylvania.  

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These closings do not reflect the totality of the area's retail climate, however.  Despite substantial competition from big-box stores such as Walmart and Target and the omnipresent Amazon juggernaut, brick-and-mortar retail does thrive in the region.  

Shopping trends among millennials indicate a greater emphasis on convenience as well as an enhanced face-to-face sales experience forcing retailers to rely on detailed customer data collated from various social media platforms.  The "shopping experience" is driving younger consumers into more of the independently owned businesses that previous generations eschewed for the ease of "one-stop-shopping."

Smart Talk will examine the state of retail in the central counties; we will look at retail real estate and development trends, the shifting purchasing habits in today's retail landscape, what stores are thriving and which stores are dying and we'll ask why some shopping malls are seeing explosive growth (Park City, King of Prussia) and why some are dead on the vine (Fairgrounds, Coventry.)

Brian Rider, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Retailer's Association will provide an overview of retail business in the region and statewide.  Omni Realty Group owner Michael Kushner will contribute the analytics on mid-state retail and real estate trends and Kevin Schrieber, president of the York County Economic Alliance will talk about promoting new business start-ups and helping existing businesses to grow.

We will also speak with John Shuba, co-owner of Angry, Young and Poor; a rock and roll boutique in Lancaster that balances a brick and mortar store with a successful online presence. 


Brian Rider - President and CEO, Pennsylvania Retailer's Association / Michael Kushner - Owner, Omni Realty Group / Kevin Schrieber - President and CEO, York County Economic Alliance


- When I was growing up, I remember toy and hobby stores with inventory stacked to the ceilings.  This made for lots of fun browsing through merchandise from possibly a decade before I was born.  Then sometime in the 1990's everybody seemed to downscale and the Toys R Us of today looks nothing like the Toys R Us of then.  Was this simply the result of increased competition and belt-tightening, or might something have changed in the tax laws?    - Todd

- I know I'm one of the off ones.. im in my late 30s and 

I prefer brick & mortars compared to online.. there is nothing like trying on new clothes or finding something you really like in person..

Also, in my opinion,  you just can't get the personal interaction online like you can in person..      - Janet

- Will the recent announcement of Amazon's alliance with Sears, to sell major appliances, save Sears, and possibly KMart?                                                                       - Art, Harrisburg

- Downtown shopping while trendy for young, able-bodied people, is not welcoming to people with disabilities and general mobility challenges. That needs to change. Accessibility must be paramount when considering a Opening a retail store downtown. Universal Design might be expensive, but what is the human cost of operating in a facility that rejects people?                                                                           - Reidenouer

I'd just like to say that convenience seems to be an opaque term.  I suspect it means differeent things to diffferent people, depending on their circumstances.

For me convenience means ease of travel, especially since I do not drive because of medical reasons.  Reaching a shopping area seems unnecessarily difficult, since I can go online and purchase almost anythig I want.  Even urban busses fail to meet my needs because they are too few in number; I do not think there are busses providing service in suburban or rural areas for people like me.

I do agree that Amazon is in the beginning stage with its food sales.  I cannot imagine buying fresh food online, especially since I live in a senior community, and my mailing address gives no clue of where I actually reside.  For an experiment, I tried to buy some ice cream from Amazon.  I gave up when I realized that there was no way the company could really deliver.  When I tried to contact Amazon, I got a robotic reply..  Not helpful..                - Roger, Elizabethtown

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