On Wednesday, Payless Shoe Stores announced its plans to close 378 stores, but said the store on Clemson Boulevard in Anderson will remain open.
That came two days after rue21 said it plans to shutter 400 stores, but not the one at the Anderson Mall.
That bucks a national trend of turning big-box and smaller stores into empty shells.
In 2016, national retailers Aeropostale, Hallmark, hhgregg, Kmart, Lifeway Christian Bookstores, McDonald’s, J.C. Penney, Radio Shack, Sears, and Walmart closed low-performing locations. The estimated economic damage, just in the last 12 months, is 2,500 stores closed and 30,000 jobs lost, according to international finance analysts at the Credit Suisse Group.
Amid the calamity, Anderson has lost a few of its longtime retail residents — most notably Kmart and hhgregg — in recent weeks, and the Ryan’s restaurant chain in 2016.
But even at those chains, the doors in Anderson were locked only after they had survived waves of significant corporate downsizing. The county, whose population climbed above 200,000 last year, has largely escaped the retail depression.
The reasons why aren’t as numerous as the daily traffic count on Clemson Boulevard (about 31,000), but almost.
Shoppers like Gerri Harper, a retiree who relocated from Ohio to Oconee County with her husband 10 years ago, attributes her habits to human interaction. She routinely makes the 45-minute drive from her home in Salem in northern Oconee County to Anderson, where she enjoys shopping amid chats with “nice, friendly people.”
“I feel more comfortable shopping in person than online. I’d much rather shop face-to-face,” Harper said as she carried packages out of the Anderson Mall on Thursday. “And this keeps people working.”
On the same sunny Thursday morning, Lisa Smith said she prefers in-store shopping because she “likes to see what I’m getting.” Another Anderson resident said she does 90 percent of her shopping in person “because I’m a touchy-feely person. I want to touch and feel the merchandise.”
That human/social element has influenced the corporate decisions at Hibbett Sports, an Alabama-based chain of sports apparel that is among the few retail organizations in expansion mode. Vice President Jeff Gray said stroll-the-aisle shoppers, many of them in small towns in the Southeast, remain the focus of his organization.
“I do think people in mid to…