It's no secret Grand Forks shoppers have seen the effects of national retail trends in recent years.

Just in the past two weeks, Payless and Shoe Carnival announced the closings of their Columbia Mall locations. The brands join a long list of national shutterings that have affected Grand Forks: Kmart, Sears, Macy's, Chico's, Rue 21 and Yankee Candle Store.

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People just aren't shopping the way they used to, said Barry Wilfahrt, president and CEO of the local Chamber of Commerce. "It's a different market."

Collections from online sales taxes between June 21, 2018 and Jan. 31, 2019 in North Dakota exceeded $5 million, according to North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger.

Grand Forks' online sales tax collections were $108,561 in that time period.

Another factor at work is the decrease in Canadian spending.

The Canadian dollar has been weak for more than five years, which means fewer Canadians are coming here to shop. According to numbers from the Pembina port of entry, crossings in December 2018 were 28 percent less than crossings in December 2010.

The move to online shopping and the decrease in Canadian visitors has had a huge impact, Wilfahrt said.

"There's been a whole change in the retail market. What do we need to do different to attract those customers?" Wilfahrt said.

In an effort to tackle these retail problems, the Chamber has formed the Regional Market Capture Committee.

This new committee will focus on bringing retail into the Grand Forks and East Grand Forks areas and look for gaps and solutions locally.

"The group is going to come up with a game plan; we're going to take some action," Wilfahrt said. "Right now, we're in the information gathering stage."

The group has met and is looking at different consultants for data research and qualitative research. It will put together a budget and visit developers in the community and people who have space to rent, Wilfahrt said.

"We're trying to find the right consultant for the Grand Forks market at this point in time," Wilfahrt said.

The mission of this task force ties into the Chamber of Commerce's theme for the year: to embrace change and drive growth, Wilfahrt said.

"It's a rapidly changing world, especially in the retail environment," Wilfahrt said. "We're looking at how to embrace that change and how to drive growth from a consumer perspective."