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Some of America’s retail giants have been struggling mightily for several years, and the Cedar Valley is not immune to the corporate fallout.

It was reported last week the Kmart location in Waterloo will close by April. The impending closure was announced by parent company Sears.

Two other Kmart locations in Iowa – Dubuque and Sioux City – also are slated to close. They are on the list of 108 Kmart stores that will shut down. Besides the Kmart stores, 42 Sears stores around the county also will close.

Kmart has been an area retail staple since it opened its 106,000-square-foot University Avenue store in 1967. A second Kmart opened near Crossroads Center in 1975. It closed along with 325 other Kmarts in 2003, a year after Kmart filed for bankruptcy. Kmart merged with Sears in 2004.

A disappointing holiday season for large department stores such as Macy’s, Kohl’s and Sears is another hit – mostly attributed to online shopping.

The latest local news is reminiscent of the closing of Waterloo’s J.C. Penney store two years ago – a store that had been part of the Waterloo retail scene since the 1920s.

According to Courier files, J.C. Penney opened in Waterloo on Sept. 16, 1926, and was an original tenant of Crossroads Center. Prior to moving to Crossroads, the store was located on the present site of the Ramada Hotel at West Fourth and Commercial streets.

Penney’s original Waterloo location was at 95 E. Fourth St., the approximate present location of Regions Bank. It moved to the eight-story Caward Building at West Fourth and Commercial in 1944. That building was demolished in the early 1980s as part of the construction of the hotel.

A Courier article regarding that closure included the following analysis:

“This entire class of company is being killed by Amazon,” said Rob Enderle, a San Jose, Calif.-based e-commerce expert. “Folks have shifted to buying online massively, and in areas where traffic started out being relatively low they have now dropped below sustainable levels.”

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He stated other large retailers would not be immune to the trend.

“Unless they can figure out a better way to respond in the next decade or so, we’ll likely see the last of these superstores close their doors,” Enderle said.

For sure, e-commerce has simplified things for many people, just as with digital services in many industries. But it doesn’t come without consequences. For example, look at the struggles the U.S. Postal Service has endured; and further analogies can be made with the automation in the manufacturing industry, which displaced workers across the nation.

We hope these companies can adjust before they are forced to close every door. Progress sometimes hurts at the personal level, and right now our hearts are with those workers and families who will be affected by this next closure at Kmart.

In the case with the J.C. Penney’s store two years ago, benefits for staff included career training, help writing resumes and filling out applications. It is our hope similar assistance can be provided for those current Kmart workers in Waterloo who will be losing those jobs.

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