The town of Massena, New York is just one of many towns across the country that is fighting to keep its retail centers open. At this border town near Canada, you will find the St. Lawrence Center. It is a major shopping mall for the North Country area.
The St. Lawrence Center in Massena was opened in the 1990s. This was a prosperous time for the area. Aluminum company, Alcoa had several smelting plants that utilized cheap and plentiful hydroelectric power from the St. Lawrence River. With Alcoa shutting down plants and other factories following suit, life in the Northern New York town has been tough.
A prime example of the dire economic conditions of Massena and small towns across the country is that the St. Lawrence Center now has over half of its retail space empty. Its food court now has only one Wendy’s that still serves the customers that occasional frequently the center. Clearly, there have been better times.
The loss of major manufacturing jobs is the only reason why shopping centers such as the St. Lawrence Center are dying. E-commerce has a big role to play in this as well. More and more people are now shopping online instead of at shopping malls and brick and mortar stores. This is proven by the fact that e-commerce sales continue to rise. Brick and mortar stores are closing at alarming rate on the other hand.
Statistics compiled by Fung Global Retail & Technology show that almost 7,000 major retail stores shut down in 2017 so far. Only about 3,500 new major retail stores opened in 2017. This is a net closure of about 3,500 stores across the country. Most of the new stores are discount stores such as Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Aldi, T.J. Maxx and Five Below.
So how is the St. Lawrence Center trying to encourage people to come back and shop at the mall? It is doing so by encouraging local artists, craftsman and shopkeepers to set up shop at the mall instead of the big retail chains. The mall has plenty of space for people to display and sell locally made goods.
It seems to be a win-win situation. Local businesses and entrepreneurs can benefit. The community will have a gathering place. The locally made and handcrafted goods can also help revive the mall by encouraging other businesses to begin setting up shop there. It is by no means a guarantee that the mall will revive, but it something that has had some positive results so far at the St. Lawrence Center in Massena, New York.