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Target store closings on South Side reinforce ‘tale of two cities’

Target store in Chatham

Target announced its plans to close two South Side stores, including the store at 8560 S. Cottage Grove Ave. in Chatham. | Manny Ramos/Chicago Sun-Times

About Target closing two stores on Chicago’s South Side in February, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said it best.

In fact, Sawyer sounded like the late Mayor Harold Washington.

“I’m not going to beg anyone to stay in my neighborhood that doesn’t want to,” Sawyer told a WGN-TV reporter.

Amen.

It doesn’t make a bit of sense to have to beg someone to take your money.

It’s bad enough that Target is closing stores in Chatham and Morgan Park, communities struggling to combat the ill effects of disinvestment.

But to add insult to injury, Target is opening two new stores on the North Side — one in Rogers Park next year and another in Logan Square in 2020.

This bone-headed decision reinforces the narrative that Chicago is two cities — one worth investing in and the other— well, let’s not even go there.

U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) led a small protest outside the downtown Target store on Veterans Day in an ongoing effort to pressure the retail giant to reconsider.

But why would they?

Target is a multibillion-dollar company. The suits aren’t likely to be intimidated by a couple of dozen protesters and a senior statesman threatening a boycott.

To be fair, the retail behemoth is also closing stores in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (I’ve been there); Commack, N.Y., on Long Island; Cordova, Tenn., near Memphis; and Greenfield, Wis., suburb of Milwaukee. (I’ve been there, too.)

But none of those closings exacerbates the negative racial narrative of urban disinvestment that has long plagued Chicago.

One of the central themes of the upcoming mayoral election is sure to be the perception that Chicago is two cities — one thriving and the other deteriorating; one white and one black.

To close two stores on the South Side that take up a combined 254,000 thousand square feet feeds that perception.

But I’m with Sawyer.

Let Target take its merchandise and go.

At this point in history, black consumers should not have to beg retailers to take their money.

After all that money has left the community. Guess what? The retailers pull up stakes, leaving empty hulks behind.

According to a statement put out by Target, the decision to close these two South Side stores “follows a rigorous annual process to evaluate the performance of every store in the portfolio and maintain the overall health of the business.”

But Target also has a corporate responsibility to be a community partner in the neighborhoods where its stores are located.

South Siders were excited when Target opened stores in the heart of the South Side.

Finally, they could choose to shop somewhere other than a Wal-Mart and a dollar store. More important, young people living in those neighborhoods could find employment.

But don’t think Target didn’t get anything out of the deal.

According to a recent Nielsen study of African-American spending, blacks have “outsized influence “ over spending on essential items such as personal soap and bath needs ($573 million), feminine hygiene products ($54 million) and men’s toiletries ($61 million).

“Black consumers account for a disproportionate amount of product sales in a number of fast-moving consumer goods categories,” Nielsen added, pointing out black consumers had $1.2 trillion in spending power.

In other words, black folks spend a lot of money on the kind of goods Target is selling.

So it is hard for me to swallow the explanation that these South Side stores were losing so much money they had to be shuttered to protect Target’s profitability.

Additionally, Target is predicting that 2018 will be “one of the best sale years in more than a decade,” Bloomberg reported.

Come February, about 235 Target employees — most of them living on the South Side — will either be out of work or facing a commute if Target decides to offer them another job.

That should be an important issue in the upcoming mayoral race.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has already signed an executive order that would empower the city to recoup city subsidies from developments that lease space to retailers that open stores in one Chicago neighborhood while closing them in another, City Hall Reporter Fran Spielman reported.

But that’s not enough.

Aldermen should move quickly to block Target from receiving any city subsidies that would help them develop the two new North Side stores.

That would send the message to other retailers that this city is serious about ending the “tale of two cities.”