Wal-Mart is celebrating the New Year in Dumas, Arkansas by shutting down its discount store. Wal-Mart doesn’t like to talk about underperforming stores, but in Dumas, they used poor sales as the reason for suddenly closing up shop. The Wal-Mart discount store will go dark this Friday, December 31st. The company claims the store was a money-loser after 25 years in the same location. This has local folks puzzled,since Wal-Mart had announced that it wanted to build a supercenter in Dumas. There is a Wal-Mart supercenter 35 miles away in Monticello, and a bigger one in Pine Bluff about 40-45 miles away. Locals say the Wal-Mart store in McGehee, 19 miles south and in Desha County, has been a huge money loser, much more so than Dumas ever was — but it remains open. As a closing down gift, Wal-Mart gave its workers a $10 gift certificate for Christmas. Fortunately, the abandoned Dumas Wal-Mart will not be empty for long. It has been sold to an investor, and a Fred’s store will occupy part of the building. A tenant is being sought for the other part of the building, Wal-Mart, told city officials that the decision to close was made because the company either had to make a “significant investment” in the store, or shut it. Since Wal-Mart only leased the building, and their lease was coming due, they decided to walk away from the store. According to the Dumas Clarion newspaper, when asked why a reportedly profitable store would be closed, a spokesman for the retailer replied, “We don’t make public our decisions.” As a result, sixty Wal-Mart “associates” will start the New Year unemployed. Wal-Mart would not explain why the company had attempted to purchase land in Dumas last spring, and what happened to the planned superstore.One local landowner told the Clarion that Wal-Mart sent him an agreement to buy 20 acres of land. “We signed it, sent it back, and they never returned it,” the landowner said. But Mayor Marion Gill said that the proposed Dumas SuperCenter would be about 145,000 s.f. “They did make a decision,” the Mayor told the newspaper. “Something made them change their minds.” “At a time when Wal-Mart … is spending millions of dollars to improve its public relations, this decision leaves Dumas leaders baffled by the company’s handling of the events which led to this abrupt decision to close the local store,” said Michael Jones, vice chairman of the city’s Industrial Development Committee.”It’s going to hurt,” the Mayor admitted, but added, “We’re going to come back.” Wal-Mart workers in the Dumas store were apparently told that if they did not stay until the last day, they would not get their severance. Desha County Judge Mark McElroy said Wal-Mart had not “been a very good neighbor.” “They come in, close businesses, people come to depend on them, and then
they’re gone,” he told the Clarion.
The CEO of the local hospital told the newspaper, “Dumas is a very close-knit, caring community and the people here are a lot stronger than some people give us credit for. We will work together to face this problem just as we have at other times and in the
past and will be better for it in the end.” Hopefully, he said, Dumas will end up with a better community partner and “move ahead.” Since 1995, Wal-Mart has shut down hundreds of discount stores, and Dumas is just another city in the growing list of communities that Wal-Mart killed twice: once on the way in, and again on the way out. For earlier stories on abandoned Wal-Marts, search Newsflash by “dark stores.”