Why Big Box Stores Are Abandoning Their Urban Experiment

And why that may not be such a bad thing.

1 minute read

December 20, 2023, 8:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Storefront of small Target in New York City with "coming soon" and "now hiring" signs in window.

A Target store in New York City in 2019. | NYCStock / Adobe Stock

In an opinion piece in The Conversation, Nicholas Dagen Bloom argues that the flight of big box stores from central cities is in part due to “flawed corporate strategies” that set them up for failure in urban areas.

“Retailers saddled with high debt, overexpansion, shoplifting losses, slumping sales and online competition are shedding stores fast. But this contraction lopsidedly affects city dwellers, who often lack the shopping options and price competition suburbanites enjoy,” Dagen Bloom writes. A combination of higher poverty rates, a glut of new stores clustered too close together, and the media-induced panic over violent shoplifting crimes have led to a rash of downtown store closings.

As I see it, the urban chain store implosion raises questions about whether suburban-style retail really does much for cities. These stores are mediocre job creators, undercut local entrepreneurs, often pay relatively low property taxes and build ugly parking lots.

For Dagen Bloom, perhaps “shoehorning suburban-style stores into urban neighborhoods” was never the solution officials hoped it would be. Perhaps the future of downtown commerce lies in the more traditional small store.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023 in The Conversation

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