I am trying to understand the business case for building more retail outlets in Yorktown when we already have a glut of vacant stores, with more being added each month. Mitchell’s, our beloved old-school hardware store, closed its doors in January. The landlord of the former beer distributor has subdivided that space so he now has four vacancies where once there was one. Mailboxes, Tool Nut and Radio Shack are gone, as well as Sophia’s Pizza and Martini Bar. Payless Shoes just closed. When Chase moves into its new space on Commerce Street, there will be two vacant banks. Readers can no doubt add to this list. Most billboards in town advertise available commercial space, lots of it.
Business Insider refers to this trend as a “retail apocalypse” as brick and mortar stores are driven out of business by online commerce. On a national level, CVS, Sears, K-Mart, Macy’s, Staples, Radio Shack, Payless, GameStop and a dozen other chains are shuttering more than 2,600 outlets, with more likely to come. The Credit Suisse brokerage estimates that retail chains will close more than 8,600 stores this year, and that doesn’t include single-outlet mom-and-pop retailers who can’t compete with online discounters. So far this year, 21 retail chains have filed for bankruptcy. All this puts thousands of employees out of work, further dampening consumer demand. The accumulation of vacant properties depresses commercial real estate values. Landlords then demand assessment and tax reductions, which shifts the tax burden onto homeowners. It’s a vicious cycle.
Yet, developers are still bringing proposals to build more commercial space before the Yorktown planning and town boards. Rather than facilitating these speculative and redundant commercial projects, the town would be better served by trying to help fill the scores of vacant properties around Yorktown. That would make actual business sense.