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Small Towns in MN Losing Retail Options

Last year, Wisconsin-based Shopko announced plans to close its remaining 120 stores, which left many small towns with a bleak shopping scene.(jade/Morguefile)
Last year, Wisconsin-based Shopko announced plans to close its remaining 120 stores, which left many small towns with a bleak shopping scene.(jade/Morguefile)
January 7, 2020

ROSEAU, Minn. -- Small towns in Minnesota are scrambling to fill the void left by national chain stores pulling out of rural areas. Unlike in urban areas, there are fewer options for rural consumers when a retailer shuts down.

The impact of losing chain stores was especially felt when Shopko, which primarily served small communities, closed all its stores last year. One of those stores was in Roseau.

Community development director for Roseau Todd Peterson said towns such as his already were facing an uphill battle in attracting businesses.

"There's so very few chain stores that like to operate in small communities," Peterson said. "So when you have one, you kind of feel like you've made it, you're doing well."

But Peterson said losing a discount retailer like Shopko makes it feel like they've taken a step backwards. He said it forces locals to drive nearly an hour to find the nearest big-box store.

He said it also can be a hindrance in attracting new residents. In addition to Shopko, Minnesota also has lost stores operated by Herberger's, Sears and K-Mart.

Peterson said online shopping - which has contributed to the decline - is an option for shoppers, but it doesn't replace the same-day convenience of being able to pick something up.

"If you're working on something and you needed an ink cartridge because your printer went down, waiting two days is kind of a big deal versus just being able to to just run down to the store and get it," he said.

Peterson said local independent stores might be able to pick up some of the slack, but they could have a hard time keeping prices low and inventory stocked. He said local residents will have to become more resourceful in how they get their items.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN