Hearne: Did the Internet Kill Off Halls Plaza Like it is Hallmark Cards?

halls web ready 2About the closing of the Halls Plaza retail store this summer…

This is no minor bump in the road, ladies and gentlemen. The shuttering of one of Kansas City’s most prestigious retail operations by arguably it’s most prestigious, locally headquartered corporation is not a good sign. Not a good sign at all.

Check out how Halls describes its Plaza location on its website:

“Halls Plaza is a luxuriously appointed jewel in the crown of Kansas City’s most famous and prestigious shopping district, the Country Club Plaza.”

Got that? Halls Plaza is the jewel in Kansas City’s crown jewel, that being the Plaza.

There’s more.

“Women of style can expect to find couture and designer clothing, accessories and shoes, exclusive cosmetic lines, extensive china, silver and crystal selections (including Kansas City’s best bridal registry) and the city’s most distinctive gifts. Men depend on Halls Plaza for the finest quality business and casual clothing, shoes and accessories, impeccable tailoring and prompt personal service. Halls Plaza also houses a fabulous Jewel Room, and, of course, a Hallmark card shop.”

KATE SPADE POSE WITH HANDBAGSThis is the retail store that illustrious Kansas City designer Kate Spade aspired to and was inspired by in the early days of her then tiny, designer handbag business in the late ’90s.

I remember dashing into Halls Plaza one Thanksgiving in 1997 to catch Spade at the end of a somewhat lonely couple of hours hawking her handbags, prior to her becoming a household word.

Comedy Central Roast Of Larry The Cable Guy - ArrivalsA few years back Queen of Mean Lisa Lampanelli described Halls Plaza to me as, “my favorite store.”

So it’s a really, really big deal that Halls Plaza is closing. Even though Halls was largely able to spin the announcement yesterday as being a bonanza for downtown where its new 60,000 square foot Halls store will replace what’s left of Halls Crown Center after the addition of the Sea Life Aquarium and Legoland Discovery Center a couple of years back cut back on the store’s size.

By the way, the expansion and migration of Halls to the third floor of crown Center helps to explain the coming-this-summer demise of the American Heartland Theater.

But again, don’t buy into this as a coup for Crown Center.

Roughly half the employees at the 48 year-old Halls Plaza will reportedly bite the dust and be laid off once the smoke clears on the consolidation. Combined with the loss of however many of the small retail operations on the third floor of Crown Center that are likely to go away to make room the new Halls.

So it won’t be pretty.

kansas-city-country-club-christmas-lightEspecially not with the hulking, block-sized Halls Plaza building sitting empty going into the Christmas shopping season, while the Plaza ponders whether to convert the store’s second floor into a parking garage.

So what’s all this really all about?

It’s about the decline and possible fall of Hallmark Cards, a Kansas City institution.

Just as far fewer people read physical newspapers and magazines, fewer and fewer people are buying and sending paper greeting cards.

It’s the Internet, stupid.

And while Hallmark is doing anything and everything it can think of to stem the tide of red ink – while laying off hundreds, if not thousands and closing Hallmark stores – it’s yet to figure a way to replace its paper card profits with E Card profits and the like.

newspapersJust as the Kansas City Star and other newspapers have had to lay off tens of thousands – present company included – while failing to replace its newspaper profits with online revenues.

It’s a jungle out here, people.

At least for companies that are being, you might say, outsourced by a New Economy. Dare I call it a New Age Economy?

For decades many locals have speculated and believed that Hallmark Cards subsidized many, if not most, of the retail operations at Crown Center. Including its own. And probably the Halls store on the Plaza.

Because it could afford to.

Thinking of YouGreeting card profits in the days of old might be said to have been usurious, kinda like newspaper profits, until the last handful of years. However, while newspapers still have a shot at remaining vital – owing to their huge role as providers of news and information – the jury’s still out on the greeting card industry.

Once upon a time for many (dare I say women), it was de rigueur to send greeting cards for holidays and occasions ranging from birth to death and just about everything imaginable in between.

Far less so today.

prisonexpressionsWe’ve got email, social media – flowers even – to cover those bases.

The jury’s still out on what will happen to Kansas City’s once mighty Hallmark Cards and Crown Center over the next 10 years.

Unfortunately whatever that fate may ultimately be will likely render the loss of Halls Plaza a very tiny blip on Kansas City’s business and pop culture radar.

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15 Responses to Hearne: Did the Internet Kill Off Halls Plaza Like it is Hallmark Cards?

  1. the dude says:

    No Galzer comment on such a momentous occasion? Color me shocked.
    Yet another sign of Hallmark and teh Plaza going down the gutter folks.

  2. admin says:

    Galzer could not be reached for comment…how’s that?

    He’s too busy ironing out the details on Stanford’s on Broadway

    • Super Dave says:

      He couldn’t iron his own clothes. Come on Hearne we all know it isn’t Craig who is the real brains behind Stanford’s.

  3. smartman says:

    I’m at a WalMart as I type this.

    Judging by the people grabbing Hallmark, Duck Dynasty Father’s Day cards I’d say they aren’t in too much trouble. Looks like they have made a heavy foray into licensing.

    As I look around I see that Hallmark also sells gift wrap, a whole line of party goods; plates, bowls, cups, tablecloth, party hats, noisemakers, plush, calendars, coffee mugs….blah, blah, blah.

    They ain’t just about greeting cards.

    • admin says:

      That’s true, but they closed down their Topeka plant this past year and have been laying off people right, left and sideways the past several years.

      They even stopped serving lunches at the American Restaurant.

      Times are tough, trust me.

  4. ShopGirl says:

    A customer came in my store and told a couple of my employees that they heard that Nordstrom and a couple of other huge retailers were looking at the space! They mentioned Neiman’s and Saks too–granted, they’ve been there, done that! Just seems like it’s a huge amount of real estate and a killer location sitting empty on one of the premiere shopping strips in the metro area; any ideas as to who is seriously thinking about taking it over???

  5. paulwilsonkc says:

    I’d bet it’s got a lot more to do with the continued dressing down of America in the workplace. Halls was the icon for the best of the best. Our culture started to change against that kind of merchandising in the early 90’s as casual Friday became standard dress code. Then casual everyday.
    My opinion; high end shopping going by the wayside. And the face of the Plaza continues to change, the anchor, iconic names are gone. Chains are taking over the place. Swansons = Forever21. Halls just may become a Dollar Store at this rate.

  6. Mysterious J says:

    Ok, no interview with Glazer for this story…but you DID manage to grind your Star axe. Well done.

    • the dude says:

      Either a galzer interview or Star axe grinding MUST occur in each Hearne article, no exceptions allowed.

  7. harley says:

    Hearne…sorry for my abscence…but been out of town on vacation and what
    a great vacation it was. but as I read some of the comments i was gone but
    not forgotten.
    You’ve seen it happening…this was bound to happen and you it a homer on the
    casual dress that everyone is into.
    I remember the jazoo being the dress up event…beautiful gowns …tuxedos..
    no jeans or funny outfits. That’s over.
    Walmart into capital grille…girls wearing shorts…men in jeans and kohl shirtsand
    almost no dress up dinner/entertainmentspots left. Sign of the times…people just
    don’t spend money on those items anymore….except women’s shoes!!!!!!!!!
    But this is part of the changing dynamics of america which i will be writing
    about in a future newsletter. America is not only mentally becoming more
    iformal but its attitude about dress/style etc are also coming down.
    Who wants to pay $500-$1000 for a suit when employees wear old jeans and
    a shirt to work….or they wear shorts and old t shoes to their companies…
    its justpart ofthe changing american scene.
    I remember people like my parents getting dressed u p to fly a plane…no
    more…..or gettting dressed up to go to a nice place (jimmy and marys/lucians/
    italian gardens/ colony to go eat…no more!
    And its hurt the fashion industry as people now wear old comfy clothes instead of
    the expensive nice clothes they once wore to go to public places.
    Now wonder halls is moving. Its a smart economic move. Don’t pay the high
    plaza rent…they probably own crown center…they can focus on the 20-30% of
    their top sellers and save millions. Sure its their vcrown jewel but that was
    years ago.
    Now the plaza is filled with homeless…chain stores….with nothing really
    unusal to attact shoppers.But truly there’s nothing like a great summer
    night on the plaza having a overpriced meal and sipping sake at the kona
    Times have chang ed hearne…this has become the age of austerity for america…
    just look around and see.
    Most americans see a tough road and this bush recession has changed peoples
    attitude toward spending. And with the growing lower class we’re seeing trends
    that show that people are dropping down in their shopping habits.
    Don’t be so surprised…this is jut the start. The economics that middle class
    america is now facing forces them to drop down. And when shopping last week
    in l.a. i noticed that there were more and more stores catering to that middle
    class market….selling suits for $199 which years ago they wouldn’t even carry.
    I will write inmy newsletter the serious problems that i see this nation facing in the
    next 10-20 years. I attended a seminar recently which had charts and graphs
    explaining exactly what was occuring in america that sent chills down my back.
    America is undergoing a seismic shift in it attitudes. I saw one cmment from
    one of my pieceson daily kos where someone put it really eloquently
    about the cheerios commercial with the mixed race couple.
    In 20 years americas average family with be a mixed brown/black and white…
    it will probably speak 2 languages fluently….it will look very different than
    the white middle class families we see on tv now. Change is coming…we can’t
    stop it. Most importatnly the economics is changing dramatically too.
    Wages are either stagnant….high quality skill required jobs will increase (right now
    theres 4 million unfilled positions in america without the skilled applicants to
    fill them…that will increase dramatically0…and we won’t be shocked by a
    30 second cherios commercial that in 15-20 y ears will be the only ones
    we see on tv.
    Halls dida smart economic move….its just plainmakes sense to move.
    Andthey’llcontinue to make money because those people who shopped there
    will still go there tobuy.
    The world is changing…so hearne don’t be so surprised when this happens…
    your twin daughter will grow up in a world so different than what you greew up
    in….and its’ going to be have a whole differentcomplexion to it.
    Just the way the world evolves…itslike a train streaming down the track
    at full speed…and nothing can stop it.
    The political landscape will change dramatically….and as i predicted we’ll
    see the end of the republican party as we know it todya…2 parties…tea party
    and moderates will split. Its inevitable. we may even see the explosion of the
    democratic party as they inclusively bring inthe moderatesof the repubs because
    no matter what the right wing says obama/clinto are really nothing but
    middle of the road republicans charading under the dem banner.
    So rest my man. The world changes…its going to be the minorities (black and
    hispanic running this nation) soon. And nothingcan change that.
    I missedall y ou guys…didn’t get a chance to read while on vacation…
    but i did notice that my man wilson is standing out with some really excellent
    stories about the young kaplan kid. Even though he was proven wrong
    on some points in those stories he brought up some good points and proved
    that kcc has some excellent talent that needs to be used by hearne.
    take care…

    • the dude says:

      Bullcrap, we have enough skilled workers to fill the jobs, the companies just want to pay crap salaries for these positions.

    • the dude says:

      Or they don’t care to pay to train the employees to fill the position in their ranks and just complain they don’t have skilled people. It is a game they like to play.

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