The ShopKo retail chain has added Custer and Chamberlain to the growing list of small towns in South Dakota that will lose their only department store in the coming months.
A spokeswoman for the Wisconsin-based retail chain said Thursday that it will begin liquidating merchandise at its stores in Chamberlain and Custer this week in advance of closure in the next three months. The statement follows the announcement in December that ShopKo will close stores in Dell Rapids, Redfield, Wagner and Webster in February.
“As of yesterday, Custer and Chamberlain were announced [for closure],” Michelle Hansen, a spokeswoman for Shopko, said Thursday. “They will begin liquidation tomorrow and will close on April 7.”
The December round of closures included about three dozen other ShopKo stores across the Midwest. Other than the six stores now targeted for closure in South Dakota, Hansen said there are no plans at this time to close any of the remaining 14 ShopKo stores operating in South Dakota, including ones in Rapid City, Sturgis, Belle Fourche and Hot Springs.
Each ShopKo location that will be closed employs from 15 to 25 people who will lose their jobs.
Chamberlain Mayor Chad Mutziger said he heard from the local ShopKo manager that the store was performing well and also had been told recently by ShopKo corporate officials that the Chamberlain store was safe.
But this week, he and others in town were alerted that the store near the eastern exit into Chamberlain off Interstate 90 would be closing soon.
“It’s obviously terrible news for our community,” Mutziger said. “Not just the community of Chamberlain but for our whole area.”
The twin cities of Chamberlain/Oacoma along the Missouri River do not have another department store. Mutziger said shoppers looking for a big-box store with similar offerings would have to drive an hour east to Mitchell or more than an hour northwest to Pierre.
Custer and the four other South Dakota towns losing a ShopKo also do not have another local department store.
Mutziger said he is hopeful that when ShopKo closes, locals will do their shopping in town to boost small retailers and soften the hit on sales tax collections. Officials also fear that shoppers who leave town for home products will buy other goods and services they might otherwise have purchased locally.
“We have a vibrant Main Street that carries a mixture of things,” Mutziger said. “Chamberlain is a vibrant enough community that our other businesses can fill those gaps left by ShopKo.”
Experts say the decline in performance of ShopKo and other legacy retailers like Sears is being driven by the ease of online shopping and the rapid expansion of mega-stores such as Walmart and discount retailers, including Dollar Tree and Dollar General.
Over the past five years, ShopKo made inroads into rural Midwestern communities with smaller stores under its “ShopKo Hometown” brand, which has fewer offerings than a full-sized ShopKo.