According to a recent news report, there has been a 29% increase in retail store closings as of July 31, 2019 as compared to the number of closings that occurred in all of 2018. An estimated 12,000 stores are set to close by year end with several others up for consideration. Industry insiders claim that an estimated 75,000 stores will close by 2026 if e-commerce rises to 25% from its current level of 16%.

Greater Fergus Falls (GFF) CEO Annie Deckert says, “With the monumental shift in society’s shopping patterns and habits, it’s more crucial than ever that we are choosing local when purchasing goods and services. At Greater Fergus Falls, it is important that our local business owners and retailers are familiar with our services, and know that we are here to do everything we can to support them and best position them for success.”

While the majority of these recent closures have yet to directly impact Fergus Falls, GFF knows that preemptive efforts are imperative. As an objective in our new strategic framework, a newly created business retention & expansion (BRE) program, GFF has teamed up with the Fergus Falls Area Chamber of Commerce (FFACC) to create and execute an outreach element that targets not only potentially affected retailers but to all local retailers. We want to ensure we are not duplicating efforts, but partnering with entities to make a larger impact.

FFACC President Lisa Workman says, “We’re working together with GFF and our local retailers to do everything we can to assist them in being successful in Fergus Falls. We also want to encourage residents to make a conscious effort to buy locally. And take advantage of the many retail employment opportunities. With so many openings, now is a perfect time to get a ‘side hustle’ and pay down debt or save for a vacation — plus you’d be making a positive impact on our community. It’s a win-win when you shop (or work) with our retailers.”

Within past weeks, Deckert and Workman have visited several retailers in the community, including, but not limited to Sears, Dunham’s, Home Depot, Fleet Farm, Radio Shack/Design Electronics and more. Continued visits to other retailers are planned. We are proud to report that of the businesses visited, 100% indicated they are doing well, which is a true testament to our community’s desire to support local businesses. The main challenges businesses report facing are finding quality employees to fill vacancies and take care of local customers. In partnership with area educational institutions, the FFACC is hosting a college and career fair expo on Thursday, Oct. 10 at Kennedy Secondary School from 8:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Students from area high schools will attend this event and have the opportunity to visit with local businesses, learning about job opportunities. We anticipate over 1,000 students will attend this event.

The mission at GFF is to support and grow the area business community by retaining existing businesses, revitalizing our local economy, and recruiting new entrepreneurs and innovators. The vision is to provide support to a vibrant business community through the removal of barriers for startups, expansions and ensuring the continued health of existing businesses in our area.

If you are an existing business, or a new business looking for assistance, we are the go-to organization to provide the expertise, resources and support to achieve your goals. GFF plans to formally launch this new programming this fall.

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