Strolling through the York Galleria on a Friday afternoon, Springettsbury Township resident Andrea Clark had just finished an eye doctor appointment and admitted she hasn’t been to a mall specifically to shop in a couple years.
Clark, 34, said she used to shop at malls when she was younger, but she tends to shop online now unless she’s looking to buy big-ticket items like furniture.
“It’s just easier and more convenient,” she said.
Large retail chains have taken a public hit during the past few years with numerous well-known companies announcing store closures throughout the country.
Consistent with national trends, retail trade employment is declining in York County, down nearly 7 percent (1,700 jobs) from February 2008 to February 2017, according to state Department of Labor and Industry statistics.
The county’s total nonfarm jobs are up about 0.5 percent (700 jobs) during that same time frame, and Jeff Newman, a statistician for the department, pointed out that growth number is likely weighed down by a decline in manufacturing jobs that outpaces retail trade jobs.
Newman also added that York County appears more reliant on retail jobs than the rest of the state. In 2008, retail jobs accounted for more than 12 percent of total employment in the county and 11 percent in the state. Those numbers dropped to about 11 percent and 10.5 percent in 2017, respectively.
Michael Niemira, a retail economics expert based in New York City, said the country is seeing something of a return to the heyday of the mail-order catalog, which helped serve the retail needs of customers in suburban and rural areas during the early 20th century.
Instead of the catalogs, less populated areas are now increasingly being serviced by online retailers, Niemira said.
Niemira said estimates he’s seen suggest one employee working for an internet retailer would be able to generate the same amount of sales as five employees in a brick-and-mortar store, thus resulting in a negative impact on net retail jobs.
Newman pointed out that the decline of retail jobs has seemed to coincide with more warehouse and distribution jobs.
Downtown revitalization: Kevin Schreiber, president and CEO of York County Economic Alliance, said York County is seeing an evolution of retail centered on customer convenience.