New Smyrna Beach, Florida, located due south of Daytona Beach, already has a Wal-Mart discount store on State Road 44. There’s also a Wal-Mart superstore eight miles to the north in Port Orange, and a total of six Wal-Mart stores within twenty miles. Residents of New Smyrna Beach who are addicted to cheap, Chinese imports have 4 Wal-Mart supercenters to pick from within an easy drive. But, according to the Daytona Beach News Journal, another Wal-Mart is heading to the beach. A developer from Jacksonville, Florida, Regency Centers, has proposed a mall near Interstate 95 and State Road 44 — not too distant from the existing Wal-Mart. Regency Centers’ plan shows a Wal-Mart supercenter on the 37 acre site. Roughly two years ago they purchased it from another developer who spent years trying to put a big box mall on the site. In this case, the developer may have spoken out of turn — before Wal-Mart was willing to publicly say anything. When the News Journal contacted Wal-Mart, a company spokesman said, “That is an area we have an interest in, but there is nothing firm, no contract. It’s still going through internal review, and in today’s economy those reviews can take some time.” Wal-Mart often doesn’t like the public, or its competitors, to know where it is going until plans are signed off, and the land permits well under way. The plans being shown by Regency total 308,185 s.f. — or roughly the size of 6.5 football fields. That’s just the building footprints, not counting the parking lots. Wal-Mart would be the key anchor store for the project. The first appearance of the project was before the St. Johns River Water Management District, where Regency has to go for a storm water management permit. New Smyrna Beach officials have seen no formal plan yet from Regency. According to the News Journal, the land under consideration is inside the city’s “designated activity center” and lies on the city’s western gateway. The existing Wal-Mart discount store is 5 miles away from the new site. Wal-Mart refused to comment on whether or not the “old” store would be shut down. Just to the north in Daytona Beach, Wal-Mart has torn down a private school to make way for another of the company’s superstore projects. The nearby community of Palm Coast is also on Wal-Mart list for another supercenter. The retailer’s saturation strategy continues unabated in Florida — despite Wal-Mart’s 50% cut in the number of supercenters to be produced in coming years. Company real estate officials in Florida don’t seem to have gotten the message.
Wal-Mart currently has three dead stores on the market in Florida, including a 108,000 s.f. store in Gainsville that they built in 1987. A Wal-Mart store that reaches 21 years is ready for the scrap pile. The company has 27 other pieces of property it controls in Florida that it wants to sell. Today in Florida, Wal-Mart has 161 supercenters, 40 discount stores, 21 Neighborhood Markets, and 42 Sam’s Clubs. The company also has 6 distribution centers in the Sunshine state. Ten years ago, Wal-Mart had only 33 supercenters, 102 discount stores, and 31 Sam’s Clubs. Their discount store count has dropped from 102 to 40. Some of these stores were expanded on site into supercenters, but many of them were shut down and abandoned. Some ‘dark stores’ were sold, others sit on the land for years, creating a blighted eyesore and attracting vandalism. New Smyrna Beach is going to end up with an empty discount store. The city has less than 24,000 people — hardly enough to support even one Wal-Mart supercenter. The entire surrounding area is saturated with Wal-Mart’s of their own, so the need for a discount store and a superstore in New Smyrna just does not exist. Readers are urged to email New Smyrna Beach’s Mayor Sally MacKay at [email protected] with the following message: “Dear Mayor MacKay, You have served on the city’s Growth Management Commission, and on the Zoning Board for the past eight years. You know better than anyone that your city’s goal to “market the waterways” could easily turn into “market the sprawl” if the city is not careful about what development goes where. The latest proposal from Regency Centers to sprawl over 37 acres just is not a compatible proposal for NSB, even in an ‘activity center’ zone. The fact is, if a super Wal-Mart is built on this site, the ‘old’ Wal-Mart on State Route 44 will close. Wal-Mart’s discount store count in Florida has dropped from 102 to 40 over the past ten years. They are phasing out the discount store, to construct huge superstores that make little sense in a small city like yours with 24,000 people. Over the past 17 years, New Smyrna has added 6,618 people to its population — but your overall market area has no need for two Wal-Marts, and one will close, leaving you with a “dark store” to contend with. North and south of you there are already supercenters. As one Mayor from another state has said: ‘It’s not how big you grow that counts. It’s how you grow big.” The Regency project is not how NSB should grow big. Most of the ‘new’ sales and jobs will come from the old Wal-Mart that closes, and existing grocery stores which will close. This is not the kind of welcome sign you want to place on the edge of your western gateway.”