Central Illinois businesses announce closures, local leaders partially blame pandemic

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — Three stores in Central Illinois are closing in 2021 and local leaders said the closings will hurt workers and shoppers.

Stock + Field announced Sunday it is closing all of its 25 stores. CEO and Chairman Matthew Whebee said the company is another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes locations in Washington and Pekin.

Whebbe also said the company is not immune to the challenges brought on by 2020. He said people will be able to get discounts on products in the coming weeks.

Washington Mayor Gary Manier said the news is disappointing and means fewer jobs and tax revenue for the city. He said the Stock + Field store is a huge retail store and losing it will put a burden on taxpayers.

“We’re based on sales tax, so every dollar that’s spent in Washington is very important. That’s part of our budget ever year, so we need all the sales tax we can get,” said Manier.

He said, people will now have to go to other places to shop and find products.

“We have a lot of farms in and out of Washington. We’re founded, a lot of farms started here and a lot are still here on the outskirts of the city. Those people will have to find other places to do business, and I would think Morton will probably benefit from the loss of Stock and Field,” said Manier.

He said because Stock + Field is a large store, it may be harder to fill with a new business.

Meanwhile, two Peoria stores are closing at the Shoppes at Grand Prairie.

“As more and more people shop online, we are going to lose more and more of these brick and mortar, local stores. That’s just an unfortunate side effect of online shopping,” said Chris Setti, the CEO of Peoria Economic Development Council.

It includes the J. Crew Factory store that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020. In September, managers announced it had equitized more than $1.6 billion in debt.

Another store closing at the end of March is The School House Express. On Facebook, the owner said the difficulties of the pandemic are forcing her to shut the doors.

Setti believes online shopping and the pandemic are playing a role in the closures.

“It is so convenient sometimes to shop online and just to sit at your couch and click a button but every time we do that we’re making a conscious choice, and that choice is hurting our community and our business community in many ways,” said Setti.

Setti said the closures also mean fewer entry level jobs. He said fewer jobs can lead to higher levels of unemployment in the area.

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