Friday, November 21, 2014

Disaster for Small Town Shoppers

 Photo: All ALCO Stores Going Out Of Business: Liquidation Sales Start Today!  

In a stunning surprise move, Alco announced today that they are closing their stores.  In our community, the announcement came by way of placard men standing on street corners.  I think it safe to say that virtually no one expected this.

Big deal, you who live in urban areas might be thinking, you who have such a plethora of shopping venues that it is hard for you to pick the one you will start with.  Not that way here.  "You have moved me to a place that doesn't even have a Walmart," BBBH wails betimes.  However she has adapted to small-town living and she typically visits Alco several times per month.  I mean, even I visit Alco, should I need a ream of copy paper or a can of coffee.

And now what is left?  Drugstores and a Dollar General; and by the way, Dollar General and its ilk have been credited largely with the financial woes of Alco.  Things change; and as I have been fond of pointing out for the past half-century, not all change is progress.

What about a half-century ago in this town?  Shopping opportunities virtually unlimited, and most merchants clustered around the courthouse square.  J.C. Penney, Danner's Five and Dime, Gambles, three jewelry stores, two shoe stores, a haberdashery, two women's boutiques, a great office supply store, a furniture store, hardware and drug stores, and a bunch a more, as we are fond of saying, all within steps of each other.  All gone.  Wait.  Not quite.  We still have a jewelry store and two hardware stores downtown, and just around the corner is, you guessed it, a Dollar General.

Yes, you might ask of me, but would you go back to that time in exchange for the conveniences of today?  In a heartbeat!  And I would be better off in ways too numerous to list.  Well, for the most obvious thing, I'd be thirty years old again, wouldn't I?

Alco was founded by Alva Duckwall in Abilene, Kansas in 1901.  Today they are closing all 198 of their stores  spread across 23 states.


Jim Grey said...

A fellow I know up in Knox posted about Alco's closing today on Facebook, with a link to an article about it on some news site. What seems clear is that Alco failed to respond well to the competitive threat the Dollar Generals and Family Dollars represented. It really seems like this is on Alco.

vanilla said...

Jim, I agree that the failure belongs to management, which I am unqualified to address. What I do know is that the loss falls on the people who depended on them for many goods. And yes, we still have DG, which incidentally drove FD out of town as well. Do not take my comments as criticism of DG-- I shop there frequently, but the selection is not the same.

Vee said...

Alco is located in a lot of under-served areas out here in Kansas. These closings will make life more difficult for senior citizens and minimum wage people who live in small towns that have just an Alco, a grocery store, a filing station, and a farm equipment store. Many people will probably do without rather than drive 25-30 miles to get things. Maybe Walmart will step in and fill the gap in some areas, but many of the areas don't meet the minimum population requirements for them.

Sharkbytes said...

I never heard of Alco, but it sounds like quite a disaster for small towns.

vanilla said...

Vee, the likelihood that Walmart will "step up" in this community is virtually nil, since we are, at most, on the edge of minimum required population and there are two WMs within 20 miles. Still, figure it out: today's prices and vehicle mileage it would cost in excess of six dollars to drive there, and who wants to make the trip anyway?

Sharkey, the fact that Alco served towns that the biggies wouldn't serve was precisely what we liked about them. The loss will hurt, especially the elderly and the poorer among us, as Vee pointed out.

Vee said...

For people with internet, Amazon is an option. We have prime membership and get two-day free shipping (or if I choose 5-day, I get points toward future purchases). I have saved way more than the membership cost us this year and things arrive on my doorstep. My sunscreen is $12 at Walmart - I get it on Amazon for $6.50/moisturizer about 30% less when purchased in lots of 3/Elvin's razor blades (year's supply) for about half of what they would cost here/just ordered chargers for my whipped creamer and saved 26%/household replacement items - such as faucets/towel racks, locks etc. - 20 - 30% less (even than Home Depot). And the list goes on. What I can't do is pick up a picture hanger or anything else that I need today for a project, and I always make sure I'm ordering what I want. Can't just run there with a return.

Lin said...

That is really sad. And difficult when you want to shop.

We experience the same thing, to a lesser degree, in the city. Americans have a penchant for cheap and "on sale"--but that does not support the stores in our community. Then they have to close and everyone cries.

We have a local mall in a nice suburban area---it has been overcome with a clientele that IF they spend money, it is only on the clearance rack. They bring with them an element that is dangerous and now there has been one car-jacking and a robbery at gun-point. The nice family element is disappearing from the mall and now the people who usually shop there are refusing to do so. Word on the street is not to go there. So...what will become of this entire mall??? I imagine they are worried like we are that they will close.

Secondary Roads said...

It's twenty minutes drive to Meijer, Menard and Walmart. (Only seven to the nearest "convenience" store.)

It was big news a few years back when Walmart announced plans to build a super center in the area. After the construction was complete, and the store was open, they discovered that county population figures include inmates in 5 penal institutions. Unfortunately, they're not able to go to Walmart and spend. The store is no longer open 24hrs/day.

vanilla said...

Vee, an option, but I'm not crazy about on-line shopping.

Lin, I guess shoppers have their woes wherever thy live.

Chuck, I wonder who had to fall on his sword for failure at due diligence on that one. Actually, we are as close to the shopping venues you list as you are; but you live on a secondary road by choice, and we picked a small town hoping not to have to make those drives.