2018-02-07 / Editorial

Why are Sears and Toys R Us closing their stores?

Unemployment just grew by at least 40 people! Unemployment just grew by at least 40 people! Major corporations are closing down their stores in Rapid City; Sears and Toys R Us to name two that recently announced their closures.

Let us spell out to them the key reasons they are no longer viable.

The people who make the major decisions about the local stores live in cities far away from South Dakota. These are the corporate geniuses who know nothing about the local market. Sadly, some of our local merchants can be counted along with these corporate dummies.

In order for any business to succeed it is imperative they know the local demographics. What is the racial makeup of the communities you serve? Example, when some of the major corporations finally learned that African Americans makeup one of the largest demographics in their market they revised their corporate thinking to make sure that African Americans became a major part of their advertising outreach. The same for Hispanics in the Southwest and Asian Americans on the West Coast.

The assumption made by the corporate executives in their ivory towers in Chicago or New York is that the see America the way they want it to be; mostly white. They have no idea that in Western South Dakota the Indian reservations make up about 25 percent of the total population and to top it off they are the fastest growing race in this region.

K-Mart used to know and understand this and as a result the parking lot at the K-Mart Store on East North Street was always packed especially on weekends when folks from the Indian reservations came to town to shop. And suddenly they just stopped advertising to the customers that made up the bulk of their customers, the Native Americans. Their corporate headquarters took the advertising out of the hands of the local manager and placed it in the hands of the corporation. As a result, K-Mart, which used to jokingly be called the “Indian Heaven” has empty parking lots when they could easily be filled. Will they be the next store to close?

Don’t take our word for it. Go to Family Fare, Walmart or Menards on any given Saturday and you will see the stores filled with Native Americans with the money to spend. Why? Because they reach out every week to the Native Americans through advertising. There are no comparable stores on the Indian reservations and so the Native Americans have made Rapid City the center of their shopping. They get the flyers in our newspaper, go through them and plan for their weekend shopping. Where are the bargains?

Let’s take Toys R Us as an example. In the middle of every December, when toys should be at the top of the market, the largest basketball tournament in South Dakota known as the Lakota Nation Invitational is held in Rapid City. Thousands of Native Americans come to town not only for the basketball tournament but for all of the educational activities that are now built around it. This is the time of the year when Native Americans are doing their Christmas shopping and especially buying toys for their children. Guess what? Toys R Us never, and we mean never, advertised to entice the thousands of Native Americans coming to town to visit their store.

The same can be said of Sears. Not once did they advertise to bring the largest minority in the state to shop in their store. Any advertising executive will tell you that this is insane. Learn the demographics of the region your store serves. After that find the advertising vehicle that best reaches those demographics. Native Americans are the fastest growing population in Western South Dakota and will soon be one of the main sources of your income. The businesses in Rapid City need Native Sun News Today to get their sales needs fulfilled. It is time for a change in thinking and in merchandizing.

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