BELOIT - The loss of Shopko in Beloit - not long after the closing of Elder-Beerman - has left many shoppers in the Beloit area frustrated with the lack of retail options.
It also will likely lead to more dollars earned here flowing out of the community as shoppers drive to other retail destinations in larger communities.
Currently all that's left in the city in terms of large-scale retail shopping, as opposed to boutique options downtown and elsewhere, is Walmart on Milwaukee Road. Otherwise, consumers are left to buy desired items online or take their money out of town to Janesville, Rockford and beyond.
Beloit resident Zachary Zummo said his first thoughts were wondering what will happen to the big Shopko building on Prairie Avenue. Some developers have called for the site to be revitalized, with ideas ranging from remodeling for smaller commercial enterprises, chains or independent businesses, even small industry, with potential rezoning and reconfiguring the site to better parcel out the 3.6-acre space.
"I know a lot of people who are not going to do all their shopping at Walmart," Zummo said. "People are going elsewhere to shop or they will shop online."
Zummo said he would do most of his shopping in Janesville, Madison or across the border in Rockford rather than shop online. As a shopper, Zummo said he will go to stores to find specific items like electronics and clothing, while pricing things out online either on the store's website or via Amazon.
His comments about taking his money elsewhere echo a key issue for the Beloit area, defined as "leakage."
Leakage is the loss of disposable income dollars in a given market to an outside area. Beloit frequently experiences losses to larger retail markets in Janesville and Rockford, reducing spending power and retail prospects here. The process can discourage development and lead to other losses and the jobs that go with stores.
Beloit resident Soalinda Casique said she's happy about the growth downtown is getting, but wants to see a retailer like a Ross, Burlington Coat Factory or Kohl's come into the city.
"It is much needed around here especially when you have those last minute school activities or unplanned events where we need to run out and buy a last minute clothing item, or a gift," Casique said. "I love to stay close by, but there is not much here at all."
Lora Conrad, of South Beloit, said when she first found out about Shopko's demise, she was irritated.
"I am a mile from the border," Conrad said. "Shopko was my go-to place for clothes and all kinds of stuff. Really, I was just mad. What else are they going to take away? There's no other retail as far as I know besides Walmart."
Beloit resident Shane Schultz said he felt Beloit had become beholden to Walmart, chasing away other retailers. The thought is similar to what developers term the "Walmart Effect," where the company builds a store in a location that then sees scarce future retail growth due to the large chain's reach.
"I think it would make it harder for other businesses to go in there," Schultz said.
Schultz said he hoped a retailer would consider Beloit with land available in the Gateway Business Park and elsewhere for potential growth along the interstate.
"If there isn't an effort to reach out and the city lets these buildings sit and rot, we may never get anyone else in, because they don't want to be in an area where nobody is coming to shop," Schultz said.
Tomorrow: Beloit's strategies to attract development.