By Deborah Bayliss Defender
Regardless of the numerous job losses, pleas from elected officials, and the negative impact closure of two South Side Target stores will have on Chatham, Morgan Park and surrounding communities, a Target spokesperson said last week the decision is final.
Target spokesperson Jacqueline DuBuse confirmed the closures telling the Defender that closing a store is not taken lightly.
“Once we make the decision to close a store and we inform our team, the decision is final,” DuBuse said. “The stores will close in February to align with the end of Target’s fiscal year. Typically a store is closed after seeing several years of decreasing profitability.”
When asked to share the breakdown of the stores’ losses, DuBuse declined saying that kind of information is not shared.
The 126,000-square-foot Chatham store, located at 8560 S. Cottage Grove, opened in 2002.
Chicago Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward), chair of the Chicago City Council Black Caucus, told the Defender on Friday that he’s received a lot of calls and emails from people in the community and all over the city who are upset about the closings and are calling for a Target boycott.
Sawyer said it took a lot of effort to bring the Target to the community.
“A lot of people were against it at the time because they were concerned about traffic issues,” Sawyer said. “But people adjusted and the store was always busy when I stopped by there.”
In a released statement prior to speaking with the Defender, Sawyer said Target’s Chatham store closing will be a devastating blow to the community.
“This closing will cost our area at least 120 jobs,” he added. “Although the employer states that employees will be offered the chance to transfer to another Target location, there is no guarantee of employment, and certainly no guarantee that a job with the company will be anywhere near our community.”
Sawyer as well as store patrons question the timing of the store closures and urged Target Corporation to reconsider what he says amounts to a racially imbalanced policy of development and investment.
“It is ironic that these stores will shutter in February, while the chain is putting finishing touches on two new stores on the North Side, in Logan Square and Rogers Park, both of which already have nearby Target stores. Once the Chatham and Morgan Park stores close, the nearest remaining South Side Targets will be at least 5 miles from this community,” Sawyer stated. “It is disappointing that this giant corporation is not willing to address the serious management issues at this store, and to give our community more time and investment in order to continue the economic recovery and to increase its store’s profitability.”
Sawyer has already spoken to several business owners about occupying the vacant space Target will leave, but nothing has been decided.
Chicago 34th Ward Alderman and Budget Committee Chairman Carrie Austin was in budget meetings Thursday when the Defender reached out to her for comment, but she released a statement on the store closures.
“I was excited to have Target as the anchor for Marshfield Plaza, as well as afford a variety of employment and shopping opportunities for our community,” Austin said of the 128,000-square-foot Morgan Park store located at 11840 S. Marshfield Avenue, which opened in 2008.
Austin stated further, “Needless to say, Target’s apparent abrupt decision appears to lack empathy for the faithful patrons in this region who not only came to depend on them to be there since 2008, but kept them viable for the decade it occupied the space. To receive a call basically on the fly does not represent the partnership I feel they initially committed. We are now left scrambling to identify a vendor that will offer quality, competitive products and services in a timely manner so as not to adversely impact other stores.”
Austin added that as her office transitions its focus to re-occupy the vast commercial retail site, she is optimistic Marshfield Plaza will remain a viable and valued shopping experience throughout the process.
Once the two stores close in February, the remaining South Side stores will be in Hyde Park, McKinley Park and Archer Heights.
With the opening of the two North Side stores in 2019 and 2020, Target will have 19 stores within the city limits and 84 stores in the greater Chicago area.
Of the 19 stores in the city, 10 are on the North Side and another four are downtown or near downtown, including one in the South Loop, according to the company’s website.
“Target takes into account many factors, including the performance and profitability of a store over several years,” DuBuse said. “We also consider the fulfillment options available that give guests other ways to shop with Target, and the proximity of other Target stores. Our decision to close the stores at 11840 S Marshfield Ave and 8560 S. Cottage Grove Ave. is based on the performance of the stores and is not about a neighborhood or geography. The decision to close a store is always difficult, and follows a rigorous annual process to evaluate the performance of every store in the portfolio and maintain the overall health of the business. All eligible store team members will be offered the option to transfer to a different Target store in their area.”
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, (D-IL 1st Dist.) during a press conference last week, called for Target to delay the store closures that will leave a hole in the retail and grocery needs that are vital to the Chatham, Morgan Park and surrounding areas.
Rush hopes Target will meet with the community to discuss alternatives to the store closures.
Attorney and activist Amara Enyia, director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, is in the process of collecting signatures to get on the ballot to run for mayor of Chicago. Enyia shared her thoughts and the impact of the closures.
“News of Target stores closing in predominantly African American communities only underscores why it is so important that we work to support local businesses, and in particular, small businesses. It is also why we must concentrate efforts in building diverse commercial corridors that serve the broad range of community needs,” Enyia stated.
Enyia further stated that Big Box stores like Target generally thrive on the convenience factor, but that research also shows their presence can actually be detrimental to local smaller businesses.
“Corporations rarely consult communities before making a decision to leave and once gone, a significant void must be filled — as we saw with the closure of a major grocery store in South Shore,” Enyia stated.
This article originally appeared in the Chicago Defender.