2018 made big changes to Eau Claire business landscape

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- In 2018 we saw two major changes at the Oakwood Mall with Sears and Younkers closing their doors for good. But the future of retail for Eau Claire is still moving forward.

Just like every year some businesses leave town while others have their grand opening. But the big news in 2018 is the city of Eau Claire having several new corporate stores moving into town.

Retail is an important industry that helps the community thrive, but in 2018 the area did have some closures. "When we look at some of the retail factors, there were national closings,” said the CEO of the Eau Claire Area Chamber, David Minor.

Two department stores in Eau Claire, Sears and Younkers closed their doors for good, while stores including Hobby Lobby, Gander Outdoors and HomeGoods all celebrated their grand opening. “We still have a strong retail hub, we are still known for that and we do draw people in to come shop here,” Minor said.

Another new store is Fleet Farm, who even just a couple months after opening still has steady foot traffic. Sales have done nothing but increase,” said Matthew Cadman, the general manager of Fleet Farm.

They are seeing success in sales even during a time when online shopping is increasingly popular. “You have a choice of where to buy, do it do it locally or do you do it online, is online easier okay but then you may not have that choice locally anymore and you may not have that opportunity,” Minor added.

The past year also shifted towards trends like buying online but still picking up the merchandise in the store. "You pay the same price online as you do in the store and it saves some of the hassle coming in the store,” Cadman said.

But no matter how anyone prefers to shop, there is plenty of opportunities for the future of retail in Eau Claire. "We're going to always see something coming in and we're always going to lose something but as a community we have to understand the value of them, we have to understand that supporting them is a two way street,” Minor said.

The Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce also says that looking ahead and into 2019 they still expect to see plenty of small businesses opening and trying to find a unique product that will also keep them competitive for online shoppers.