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A rising tide won't lift sinking ships

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If I learned anything from the hit movie “Titanic,” it's that a sinking ship can chew up a lot of time and energy on its way down.

And at least half that time and energy is spent denying anything is wrong.

The lesson came to mind as headlines over the last week announced store closings by Sears, Kmart, Macy’s, The Limited and other struggling retailers around the U.S.

The headlines are a reminder that even if we wake up on Jan. 21 to a Trumpian boom spurred by lower taxes and lighter regulation, business is not going to become a cakewalk.

Competition will be as fierce as ever, something business leaders probably understand anyway. They know they will have to keep working hard for every sale.

As they roll up their sleeves, they will have to resist the temptation to pour time and money into sinking ships on the assumption that a favorable business climate will finally bail them out.

It ain’t gonna happen.

That’s pretty much what the moves by Sears and Kmart and other retailers are telling us.

Sure, they could have preserved their flagging stores in hopes that high tariffs on imported goods would soon make shopping at their rival Walmart more like a trip to Saks Fifth Avenue. But they apparently were under no such delusions.

The loss of jobs is terrible, if not exactly unexpected. But closing stores ultimately frees up time and energy to focus on new ideas and new ways to compete. It’s one of my favorite topics: Old ways of doing things often pose the biggest obstacles to seeing opportunity.

So go ahead and embrace what is expected to be a more favorable business climate under President Donald J. Trump. But don’t let it be an excuse to avoid making tough decisions, taking risks and trying new things.

It’s not the approach we plan to take at the Central Penn Business Journal.

Over the next few months, you are going to see us launch new initiatives in several areas, initiatives that we hope will build on our strengths: delivering timely, valuable information for and about the local business community.

These initiatives also will include new ways for readers to engage with us and help shape the information we gather and deliver. So don’t be surprised over the next weeks and months if we are asking more often and more directly for your input and insight.

I know we will enjoy hearing from you.

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Joel Berg

Joel Berg

Joel Berg is editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. Born in Philadelphia, raised in Northern Virginia and now living in York, he's a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College and the University of Maryland. Have a question or story idea? Email him at Follow him on Twitter, @JoelBYorkPa.

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