INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Zach Walker became the Independence city manager in 2016, and he says he’s been watching the decline of retail stores since.
"CNBC forecast that through April of this year, over 6,000 stores nationwide had already closed. That's in excess of the total number that closed in all of 2018," Walker said.
The impact in Independence is staggering.
The city is forecasting less than 1 percent growth in retail sales this year. Walker told 41 Action News that roughly one-third of the city's general fund comes from retail sales tax.
"Most of our basic services are funded by and supported through our general fund,” he said. “Things like police and fire and our park system and our streets all come out of the general fund.”
On the Independence Square, men's store Wild About Harry is marking more than 10 years in business.
"We've all had that experience where you walk into a huge store and it seems like it's 20,000 square feet and there's like two people working in there. It just doesn't work," manager Kevin Deen said. "The customer service is not there and we try really hard here to do that."
For the last five years, Walker said revenue from retail sales tax has decreased by about $1 million each year. In 2018, the city failed to pass a measure that would allow taxes on online sales.
Walker anticipates online sales will continue to grow. When it comes to balancing the budget, he said, "we're really running out of rabbits to pull out of the hat.”