We are living in an era being dubbed “the retail apocalypse”

According to a Time Magazine article from 2017, 1 out of every 4 malls in the United States could be out of business by 2022.

The writer, Josh Sanburn, said retail stores are “victims of changing tastes, a widening wealth gap and the embrace of online shopping for everything from socks to swing sets.”

More Americans shop online than at any other point in history, a choice that impacts both the local workforce and economy. Younker’s in Conestoga Mall, a go-to shopping destination and employer in Grand Island’s Conestoga Mall since the early 1970s, will be closing soon. Retail institutions such as Sears and J.C. Penney closed more than 5,300 stores nationwide in the last year. Both have retail locations here.

Grand Island’s ever-evolving retail climate has gone from a vibrant shopping hub downtown, to a large indoor campus at Conestoga Mall, and back again to an outdoor walking mall like Northwest Commons, along with niche shops downtown.

With online shopping a part of the equation now, what’s next for Grand Island?

Earlier this month, we distributed a four-question survey through our mailing list and social media asking participants to weigh in on the future of retail in this city.

The survey offered participants three multiple choice questions with an option to further explain their answers in a sentence or two. The last question of the survey was an optional response. All responses remained anonymous.

The response was more than we expected. In three days, more than 270 Grand Islanders weighed in.

The most encouraging result of the survey came from the third question: “Which method of shopping do you prefer?” 67.6 percent said they prefer shopping in store rather than online.

The final question of the survey asked “What would entice you to shop locally versus online?” Three main answers emerged: more variety, competitive pricing and good customer service.

– “I would go for a bright smiling face. Someone who knows me. Price isn’t always a factor. I love a bargain, but shopping local gives you a sense of supporting community…