Looking for a safe haven from big box sprawl? Within the borders of the United States, its hard to find a place that has not already been degraded from saturation by big box stores. But, according to data from Wal-Mart, there are some places that have seen less sprawl-marts than others. According to the retailers figures, a total of 199 Wal-Mart stores were opened within the past year. Of that amount, 163 (82%) were superstores — either new construction/relocations, or simple expansions. Wal-Mart opened only 7 discount stores last year, because this prototype store, which contains only a limited food grocery selection, is being rapidly phased out in deference to the larger, and more profitable supercenters. A total of 19 Sam’s Clubs were opened in the last 12 months, and 16 of the smaller Neighborhood Markets. The following 10 states escaped any new Wal-Mart stores in the past year: Idaho, Wyoming, New Mexico, South Dakota, Indiana, Vermont, Maine, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Hawaii. It’s not that Wal-Mart bypassed these states, but their proposed stores in these states are under siege by neighborhood groups. In Vermont, for example, at least three superstores have been proposed, but each is under fire from citizen groups. There are another 5 states that had only one Wal-Mart store open last year: Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Mississippi, and New Jersey. Seven states had only two new Wal-Marts: Washington, Oregon, Utah, North Dakota, Missouri, Arkansas and Alaska. Six states had three Wal-Marts: Kansas, Virginia, West Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Six states had 4 stores added: Nevada, Colorado, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Maryland, and New York. Five states had 5 new stores: Oklahoma, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina. Two states had 6 stores built: Kentucky and Pennsylvania. Two states had 8 stores added: Arizona and Ohio. South Carolina had 9 new stores. In terms of the high-end states to avoid, there were six states that accounted for 38% of the total Wal-Mart store growth last year. Michigan had 11 new stores, while California and Texas had 12 stores each. Minnesota and Alabama had 13 news stores. The state with the highest number of new Wal-Marts was Illinois, at 15.
These figures indicate that almost half the states in America (24 states) had 4 or less new Wal-Mart stores added this past year. In total, a new Wal-Mart store was opened every 44 hours somewhere in America. But the main engine of growth, supercenters, came in at “only” 163 stores. Wal-Mart says they now have “more than 2,300 supercenters” in America, and “more than 1,000 discount stores.” That means there is a Wal-Mart discount or superstore for roughly every 92,000 Americans. The saturation varies widely from state to state, but the production of new Wal-Mart stores is clearly slowing down — and not just because planners in Bentonville have applied the brakes. Citizen opposition to new stores last year killed 46 Wal-Marts outright. Over the next several years, Wal-Mart is expected to be on a glide path downwards as far as production of new store square footage. Because the company overbuilt, its sales continued to rise, but not at the pace it would have if the company was not cannibalizing its own stores. This cannibalization is illustrated in the company’s comparable stores sales for the month of October, 2007 of .4%. For the past 39 weeks, the retailer’s same store sales increased by only 1.4%, compared to 2.3% for the same period last year — 40% lower than last year. It’s hard to blame sales figures like that on bad weather or consumer confidence. Wal-Mart is hitting the emergency brake, and the citizen’s movement against the giant retailer is starting to pay dividends in terms of reduced new sites under development.