To understand what Wal-Mart is doing in Idaho, you have to visit the community of Lewiston, Idaho. Wal-Mart has retained a real estate company from Houston, Texas to try and sell its 116,892 s.f. discount store # 2006, which sits on nearly 15 acres of land, two-thirds of which is a sprawling 676 car parking lot. Wal-Mart’s asking price is $4.5 million for the building, which was constructed in 1993, and remodeled in 2001. The company says there are 56,000 residents within 10 miles of this site — which is being closed in the fall of 2009 because the retailer is building a larger superstore nearby. The discount store is typical of the red,white and blue boxes that Wal-Mart built in the early 1990s, with ‘We Sell For Less” and “Satisfaction Guaranteed” in red lettering on the blank white walls. Wal-Mart will not actually close on the building with a buyer until 90 days after its superstore opens, so as not to have the new owner compete with the new Wal-Mart facility. There is another Wal-Mart discount store in Moscow, Idaho roughly 22 miles north of the Lewiston store. The Moscow store is also slated to either be expanded or closed. In 1998, Wal-Mart had 9 discount stores in Idaho, and no supercenters. A decade later, there are only 3 discount store left, but 16 supercenters are open. In their shift away from the discount store format, Wal-Mart has wasted 15 acres of land in Lewiston, closing down a store in its 16th year of operation. Despite this history, other communities in Idaho are excited about the prospect of a new Wal-Mart coming to town. One real estate analyst interviewed by the Spokane, Washington Journal of Business admitted, “Wal-Mart is probably one of the only big retail stores that’s doing well in this economy.” The Arkansas-based retailer has submitted plans to add two new superstores to its count in Idaho, one in Post Falls, the other in Hayden. According to the Journal, the city of Hayden “expects to issue a building permit within six weeks for a 213,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter. In Post Falls, Wal-Mart has applied for a 150,000 s.f. store, with a break-out wall to allow the structure to be expanded even larger. City officials in Post Falls say the project could have a building permit by May. The Journal notes that the supercenter project in Post Falls has also attracted a Lowe’s big box just west of the planned Wal-Mart. A Sam’s Club had also been planned for the site, but that store has been put on hold until construction work on a new road interchange is completed. A Fred Meyer Stores is also planned for Post Falls. In Hayden, the planned Wal-Mart will have a proposed Walgreen’s across the street. There is apparently no organized opposition to these big box stores in Idaho.
There’s more than potatoes sprouting in Idaho these days. Big box stores have enjoyed a path of least resistance attitude in Idaho, still a frontier state with little sense of land use controls. Cities like Post Falls have been growing dramatically since 1990. The Post Falls population has more than tripled since then — but by 2007 the population of Post Falls was still less than 26,000 people. Hayden, Idaho is also growing, but has less than half of the population of Post Falls. Neither community needs another Wal-Mart. Hayden residents are only 8 miles from the existing superstore in Post Falls on East Mullen Avenue. Post Falls already has a superstore, so the idea of a second superstore for a community of only 26,000 people makes little sense. Both of these proposed superstores should be seen as surrogates for a store in nearby Coeur D’Alene, a city with a population of 42,000 people, where there is no Wal-Mart. But even with Coeur D’Alene’s population added to the mix, there is no market need for two new superstores. Despite what it tells its shareholders, Wal-Mart continues to build new stores that cannibalize its existing stores, lowering its sales per square foot. Its reckless abandonment of hundreds of stores that still have useful life, like the one in Lewiston, is unprecedented in retailing history. Readers are urged to email the two Mayors of Post Falls and Hayden. The bizarre twist about a Wal-Mart superstore in Hayden, is that the Mayor, Ron McIntire, has been in the grocery business for at least 35 years ago when he bought his first grocery store in Hayden. Since that time, McIntire grew his small town market into “a successful multi-store, interstate business” — just the kind that Wal-Mart will take down. Email Post Falls, Mayor Clay Larkin at [email protected].org, and Mayor McIntire of Hayden at [email protected] Just cut and paste this article into an email to both. Tell them: “Your city does not need a Wal-Mart supercenter, and it will bring no added value economically to your taxpayers. More traffic and crime — yes — but not much else.”