There are 18 supercenters within 20 miles of Marietta, Georgia. There are two supercenter in Marietta itself, including the store on Cobb Parkway South, and the store on Chastain Meadows Parkway NW. Marietta has a population of 63,000 people — but how many superstores does one small city need? That’s a question that apparently Wal-Mart figured out on its own. The retailer must have put pencil to paper and realized its own mistake. This week, according to a small story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wal-Mart announced that it is scrubbing all plans for another supercenter in Marietta. That’s good news for Marietta, but local officails are still licking their wounds. City officials hoped that the new store would revitalize a struggling shopping center. But the decision not to build was not made in Georgia, and it was not recent. Last June Wal-Mart announced that the company was slowing down the production of new stores, in part due to criticism from Wall Street analysts who said the company was voraciously cannibalizing itself. The retailer also postponed at least 80 projects that were tied up in local citizen site fights across America. A Wal-Mart spokesman told the newspaper that Wal-Mart was cutting its planned superstore growth in half, from 280 to 140. That’s not really what the company told its shareholders in Fayetteville last June, but the 140 figure was mentioned as part of the outyears growth target. The net result for Marietta was the same: no store. Wal-Mart also footnoted that the Marietta project had some environmental issues of its own that were driving up the cost of developing the site, and there was a traffic light installation problem as well. So Wal-Mart walked on the site, leaving the market safely in the hands of its other 18 supercenters nearby.
Marietta’s industrial development manager lamented in the newspaper that there were no other retailers interested in the property. “The city is very disappointed with the change of plans. This is one of the gateways to Marietta,” he told the Journal Constitution. “The city hoped this would jump-start needed revitalization in the area.” Marietta officials apparently consider Wal-Mart to be a form of “industrial” development, and apparently believe that a retailer can ‘jump-start’ anything. Wal-Mart stores are basically bottom-feeders. They scoop up discretionary income at the bottom of the retail ladder. They make nothing, and sell what’s already being sold at other cash registers. In Marietta’s case, a new supercenter would have predominately ‘captured’ sales from its own fleet of stores. This is not economic development, this is economic displacement. Readers are urged to email Marietta Mayor William B. Dunaway at [email protected] with the following message: “Mr. Mayor, you are lucky that Wal-Mart left you at the altar. With 18 supercenters surrounding you, its time for Marietta to look closer to home with local businesses for your economic salvation. You have said that “perservation of Marietta’s special look” is important to you. A Wal-Mart supercenter did not fit into the Vision plan for Marietta, and it would only have cannibalized its existing stores. It makes no sense to put a superstore at the gateway to your city — not when you are stressing walkable neighborhoods. Use this opporunity to limit the size of retail stores in your gateway zones, and give visitors and residents something more to look at than a Wal-Mart supercenter.”