Putting the Announced Ashtabula K-Mart Store Closing in Perspective

To put the recently announced Ashtabula K-Mart store closing in perspective, the Growth Partnership conducted an analysis of changes in employment in the total retail trade sector and the department store sub-sector in Ashtabula County during 2005-2014. The county’s total retail trade sector lost 874 jobs during the time period. Department store employment declined by 580 jobs in the county in 2005-2014, which represented over 66% of the total loss in retail trade sector. See the table immediately below.

We also looked at the change in the location quotient (LQ) values for the total retail trade sector and the department store sector in 2005-2014. Location quotients (LQ) are basically a way of quantifying how concentrated a particular industry (retail trade or department stores) is in a area (county) as compared to the nation. An LQ value of 1.0 means the industry is equally concentrated in a local area as it is nationally. An LQ value of over 1.0 means the industry is more highly concentrated in the local area than the nation, and an LQ value of less than 1.0 means the industry is less concentrated locally than nationally. The LQ values for both retail trade and department stores in Ashtabula County dropped in the 2005-2014 time period due to the local employment losses in both sectors. The sharpest LQ decline occurred in the local department store sector, which fell from 1.95 (almost twice the national concentration) to .75 (only 75% of the national concentration).

By comparison, Lake County lost 1,927 retail trade jobs in 2005-2014, dropping from 14,639 to 12,712. Lake County lost 260 department store jobs in the same period, dropping from 2,037 to 1,767.

Ashtabula County Retail Sector Changes
Variable 2014 2005 2005-2014 Change
NAICS 44-45 Retail trade employment 3,456 4,330 -874
NAICS 4521 Department stores employment 226 806 -580
NAICS 44-45 Retail trade % Total employment 13.49% 15.21% -1.72%
NAICS 4521 Department stores % total employment 0.88% 2.83% -1.95%
NAICS 44-45 Retail trade location quotient 1.02 1.1 -0.08
NAICS 4521 Department stores location quotient 0.75 1.95 -1.2

What are the factors causing the employment and location quotient declines in retail trade and department stores in Ashtabula County. The key drivers are: 1) the recession’s lingering impact on employment and personal income in the county; 2) population loss in Ashtabula County, whose 2014 population was estimated at 99,175, a loss of about 2,300 (2%) since 2010. Population losses have been the result of significant net out-migration which has averaged 500 per year since 2003; and 3) restructuring of the retail trade and department store industries in response to a more sluggish economy, reduced consumer spending, and greater competition from the online retail sector.

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