The closure of Macy's is the latest blow to the Berkshire Mall, whose continued viability has to be in doubt.

Macy's departure, which will be preceded by several weeks of clearance sales, comes on the heels of the departure of Best Buy, like Macy's a prominent and popular nationwide chain. Another hole will emerge in the Lanesborough mall and 58 employees will lose their jobs. (Eagle, January 8).

These are in general tough times for malls as increasing number of people do their shopping online. That is not something that is likely to change. In the Berkshires, downtowns, among them Lee, Lenox, Great Barrington and Pittsfield, have been enjoying a retail renaissance. Malls and downtowns are inevitably economic rivals, and right now, the tide has turned to downtowns here and elsewhere.

The Berkshires' small and declining population works against it in many ways, and that includes satisfying the bottom lines of giant retail corporations like Macy's. The company has been closing "underperforming" stores and if the local Macy's has been underperforming that is a reflection upon a small customer base, not upon local employees or the mall itself.

Mall operator Strategic Asset Services's assertion that the closing of Best Buy would provide an "opportunity" to add new retail clients sounded like an attempt at spin at the time, and no one has emerged in that sizable store. No similar spin has emerged regarding Macy's, and three smaller stores associated with chains are leaving in coming weeks. There is no formula to determine when a mall loses so much critical mass that it cannot function financially, and Berkshire County residents would just as soon not find out the hard way.