Local malls, retailers react to big box stores closing

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - With the future of big stores like Shopko and Sears uncertain, local business owners are stepping up their game to keep up with online shopping.

“It’s kind of scary to hear that big box stores are closing,” said Leah Hernandez, a small business owner.

Hernandez has owned The Cozy Home, located off Monona Drive, for over five years. As a consignment furniture store, her business often competes with bigger brand business.

“They’re so formidable at times and if they’ve been around for a long time that makes them even more formidable,” said Hernandez.

But she’s seen many big box chains, like Boston Store in the East Towne mall, close their doors. When this happens, she says she analyzes her own business plan.

“It makes us think ‘What are we doing? What can we do? How do we step up our game?’” added Hernandez.

Kristie Schilling, the Monona East Side Business Alliance CEO believes small businesses stay afloat by creating a shopping experience.

“We’re in a position where we’re seeing the turnover of what people used to consider a viable shopping opportunity to what they consider or what they desire today for shopping,” said Schilling.

The empty spaces where stores used to sit at West Towne mall have the retailers getting creative.

Michala Meyerhofer, the Marketing Director for West Towne and East Towne malls, explains retail is always going through a transition phase.

“I think right now there's a transition that we see going on and we're really using it as an opportunity to kind of breathe new life into the mall,” said Meyerhofer.

Meyerhofer says part of the goal is to draw customers to the mall for more than just shopping and provide fitness, dining, and entertainment options.

“Sometimes it’s those entertainment venues and that's why we're seeing so much redevelopment in the industry kind of across the board,” she said. “It's going to keep changing, it's never going to stop and we're just adaptable and we're going to change along with it.”