Outdoor retailer Gander Mountain made a splash when it opened a location outside Snellville in late 2015, but that store, along with dozens more, will be closed within weeks.  Electronics retailer hh gregg is closing all its stores, including 15 in Georgia.  Payless shoe Stores is closing hundreds of locations, including five in Georgia.  Last month, department store J.C. Penney announced it will close five stores in mostly rural areas of Georgia.

All of these closings were announced in just a few weeks, and signs point to even more closings on the horizon. Even Sears, once one of the nation’s best known retailers, is the subject of near-constant bankruptcy rumors.  By and large, the retailers that have announced closings in recent weeks have blamed that on customers who would rather buy online rather than in stores.

James Miller, a spokesman for the Georgia Retail Association, said the trend to online sales if forcing retailers to adjust.  “It is a seismic shift in retail,” he said. “Some stores are finding ways to merge their online and store efforts.”

That includes offering free in-store pickup for products ordered online. That brings customers into the stores, where retailers hope they will spend more money.

Still, online is hitting some retailers harder than others. Some companies are deciding that a smaller footprint is better, and others are realizing they simply can’t compete with the internet.  “You are going to see some of them take a step back,” Miller said.

In a release by Gander Mountain announcing the closings and a related bankruptcy filing, the company said as much.  “Like many retailers, Gander Mountain experienced challenging traffic patterns and shifts in consumer demand resulting from increased direct-to-customer sales by key vendors and accelerated growth of e-commerce,” the company said. “Despite aggressive actions to improve the efficiency of the company’s retail operations and support functions, the underlying financial impact from underperforming stores and unproductive, excess inventory hampered efforts to create a sustainable path forward.”

Penney had a similar statement about its store closings, issued by CEO Marvin  Ellison.  “We believe closing stores will also allow us to adjust our business to effectively compete against the growing threat of online retailers,” he said in a release.


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