Sprawl-Busters has been writing about Wal-Mart abandoned stores for six years now, and the media is starting to get the picture. At most points in time, Wal-Mart is carrying 350 or more stores that it has left “dark” by the roadside. As much as 26 million square feet of empty stores. When I called them “dead stores,” Wal-Mart corrected me by saying, “we call them dark stores.” Public officials in Kenosha and Sheboygan, Wisconsin are concerned that its now their turn to watch Wal-Mart turn out the lights on them. According to the Small Business Times, both cities have ‘old’ Wal-Mart stores that could soon be vacant. In Sheboygan, Wal-Mart plans to build two Supercenters to replace its current Wal-Mart discount store at the Taylor Heights Shopping Center. The Sheboygan Common Council has approved plans for a 212,000 s.f. Wal-Mart Supercenter on the south side of the city, and the retailer plans to build another 212,000 s.f. Supercenter just north of the city. If Wal-Mart builds the two Sheboygan stores and closes its current store there, the newspaper says it will be a serious blow for Taylor Heights — a shopping center that already lost a Piggly Wiggly store, which closed earlier this year. Officials worry that the Wal-Mart discount store will remain empty. And in Kenosha, Wal-Mart plans to build a 200,000-s.f. supercenter store on a vacant site on Kenosha’s south side, less than 3 miles from the Wal-Mart discount store in Kenosha. Wal-Mart also wants to build a second supercenter just northwest of Kenosha in the Town of Somers. Kenosha officials were told that if the two superstores are approved, the Kenosha discount store is history. “It’s definitely a concern,” one Kenosha official told the newspaper. Kenosha officials might require Wal-Mart to find an occupant for their discount store as a condition of approval for the new south side Supercenter. But then again, they might do nothing at all.
Do you wonder what’s in this musical chairs for Kenosha and Sheboygan officials? One-third of Wal-Mart’s empty stores are on the market for at least three years. Some have even had to be torn down. Wal-Mart is building bigger stores for Wall Street investors, not for Main street shoppers. The supercenters not only leave empty discount stores behind, but often empty out existing grocery stores as well. Such superstores bring little or no added value to a community. For earlier stories on this subject, search Newsflash by “dark” or “empty.”