Editorial: Group is right on target with retail push

Published 10:51 am Thursday, November 13, 2014

It’s good to see people supporting retail.

Austin residents are currently showing the good things that can happen when people in the community come together, but we hope it’s not a one time thing.

When Target Corp. announced plans to close its Austin store early next year, it incited a wave of people trying to change the corporation’s mind. They’ve created Facebook groups, signed petitions and organized a meeting to try to keep the store in town.

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Now the organizers of the “Save the Austin Target, MN from closing” Facebook page will hold a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at The 1910, 210 Fourth St. NE.

Will the group succeed in keeping Target in Austin? The easy answer is ‘no.’ With Target operating about 1,800 stores in the United States, there’s reason to be cynical and argue volunteers in one town won’t change the mind of a major corporation closing 10 other stores — all reportedly for decreased performance.

The group hasn’t altered Target’s plans yet. After the group formed, a Target spokesman reiterated that the company still plans to close the Austin store by Feb. 1, 2015.

But we applaud the group’s effort, even if the odds aren’t in organizers’ favor. For starters, it’s a good sign the effort has advanced beyond online resources to a public meeting. It will be an even better sign if Target representatives attend Thursday’s meeting.

Even if Target closes, the group started something good that we hope continues: It brought increased attention to the importance of buying local.

There are still plenty of good things going on: Hibbett Sports and Runnings recently opened, a new Pizza Hut is being built, and the announcement that Hy-Vee intends to buy Oak Park Mall could spur more growth.

But Austin has its challenges when it comes to retail. Bruce Schwartau, a University of Minnesota Extension educator, spoke to Austin Area Chamber of Commerce members over the summer and told them that cities like Austin and Faribault face a geographical challenge: They’re close to other cities that attract shoppers. For Austin, Rochester is to the east, Albert Lea to the west and Owatonna is to the north. This limits the reach and creates competition for the pool of out-of-town shoppers.

That makes Target an even more important asset to Austin’s retail community, as fringe shoppers living north or west of town may now opt to shop in Owatonna or Rochester where there’s a Target.

While a city like Albert Lea is smaller in population, it has less competition when it comes to attracting shoppers, especially south and west of town, where the closest retail center is several miles away.

Now is the perfect time of year to show support, but the meeting is only the beginning. The holiday season is the busiest time of year, and we know business owners and managers want that money to stay local.

If you like a local business, support it consistently.

To sign the petition, go to www.change.org/p/target-save-the-austin-mn-target-store-from-closing. View the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/events/1483255168629796/ 1484721155149864/?notif_t=like.

— Austin Daily Herald, Nov. 12

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