Sometimes we “outgrow” our stores, says Wal-Mart Realty. That’s the retail understatement of the year. It turns out that Wal-Mart changes stores as casually as you and I change shoes. Today, on the market, Wal-Mart is offering for sale or lease, no less than 390 “available buildings.” Some of these buildings are not yet emptied, but all of them are on the market. More than 25 million square feet of “dead” Wal-Marts. These facilities are located in 36 states. 14 states have 10 or more empty Wal-Marts. 75% of these stores (292) are leased by Wal-Mart, only 25% (98) are owned by the company. 47 of the stores have been added to the available list just in the last six months. Texas leads the dead stores count (50), followed by Florida (41), Georgia (35), Tennessee (25), Alabama (20), Louisiana (19), Arkansas (18), South Carolina and Mississippi (17), Kentucky (14), and Oklahoma, North Carolina and Missouri (13). More than 102 stores on the market are over 100,000 s.f., and many of them were built in the late 1980s or 1990s, and are hardly what you would call “spent stores.” These dead or dying stores are due to one factor: in 1988 Wal-Mart shifted from the discount store format to the supercenter format, and began closing down discount stores where they could not enlarge them to add a grocery store. Many of these stores were not ‘outgrown’, but mothballed because the company decided they could pump more money through their “units” by adding a full line grocery store. Wal-Mart will say that their aisles were crowded and stores too small, but when you look at the size of some of the available buildings, it’s cleaer that this habit of leaving empty stores behind is because they wanted larger sales figures, not larger aisles. Largely a southern phenomenon, the dead store count is moving north and west as Wal-Mart moves its supercenter expansion into those areas. In Maine, for example, there are now 3 stores on the available list, where there were none in February of 1999.
For a complete list by state of empty stores, contact [email protected] In February of 1999, Wal-Mart had 330 dead or dying stores. So they have added 60 stores to their list since last year. Wal-Mart has more dead space than most retail stores have buildings. Many towns now cosidering a Wal-Mart supercenter already have a discount store which is slated to close, creating little added value to the local community.