MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa -- Call it a sign of the times: More Kmart and Sears stores are closing, including two stores in Iowa -- one in Iowa city, and the other in Marshalltown. The Kmart in Marshalltown has been a fixture in the community for decades. Its closure is just the latest example of how difficult it is for brick and mortar stores to survive in the age of the internet. In the age of Amazon and online shopping, it's becoming harder and harder for brick and mortar retail businesses to survive, let alone thrive.
"You have to find ways to differentiate yourself, just like communities do, just like we`re trying to do here in Marshalltown," said David Barajas, Jr., CEO of Marshalltown Regional Partnership. "We're trying to find ways to differentiate ourselves and that`s what the brick and mortar stores have to do."
One of the ways brick and mortars like Willard's Furs and Fashions and Hellberg's Jewelers differentiate their businesses from the online experience is by providing a personal touch to their service. The businesses on Main Street in Marshalltown have both been around for well over a century, and their owners say the key to standing the test of time is developing relationships.
"We know them by name, they`re just like family," said Jonathan Hull, Owner of Willard's. "We have a glass of wine together, so you build that relationship with your customer and you provide the service and the product that they want."
"You are meeting your customer face to face and talking with them and showing them products...you`ve chosen just for them and I think that makes a difference," said Vick Hellberg, Owner of Hellberg's. "I`m helping sixth generation people that have purchased from us that many generations and that makes us very proud."
It's unclear what will happen to the space where the Kmart is currently located in town.
"I think it`s sad anytime a local business closes," said Kathy Siebring, a longtime Marshalltown resident. "I feel sorry for all the people that have worked here and now are going to have to try and find more jobs, so I think that`s unfortunate."
But community businesses leaders like Barajas see potential.
"We see it as an opportunity, an opportunity to figure out exactly what`s gonna go in there next."
When asked for comment on the announcement of the closings of two Iowa Kmart stores, Howard Riefs of Sears Holdings, provided WHO-TV Channel 13 News with the following statement:
"We can confirm that we are making the difficult, but necessary decision to close these two Kmart stores. The stores will close to the public in early September. Until then, the stores will remain open for customers. The stores will begin their liquidation sale on June 15. We have been strategically and aggressively evaluating our store space and productivity, and have accelerated the closing of unprofitable stores as previously announced. We often hear from our members who are disappointed when we close a store, but our Shop Your Way membership platform, websites and mobile apps allow us to maintain these valued relationships long after a store closes its doors. As a result, we hope to retain a portion of the sales previously associated with these stores by maintaining our relationships with the members who shopped this location. Our members and customers can also shop at our other Kmart locations, which are listed at www.kmart.com/stores. The number of associates is not publicly available. Those associates that are eligible will receive severance and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Sears or Kmart stores. Most of the associates are part time/hourly."