There are currently six Wal-Mart stores in the Reno and Sparks, Nevada market area. Four of these stores are supercenters. When you look at a Wal-Mart map of Nevada, there appears to be a swarm of flies hovering over Reno.
So it is with little anticipation that residents of Reno greet the news of another Wal-Mart superstore opening. Especially when the new store means the closure of an existing Wal-Mart.
That’s exactly what is happening in Reno this week. The company’s discount store #2106 on Northtowne Lane is shutting down, leaving Reno with another dead store. This closing store has not yet been listed for sale by Wal-Mart Realty, but it could end up sitting on the market for years, becoming blighted, and pulling down property values nearby. All for no reason.
Channel 2 News in Reno tried to put the best face on the new superstore opening, claiming that the new store was “not just another Wal-Mart.” But it turns out the new angle for Channel 2 was that the store was opening with a Paiute Indian blessing. The station quoted the Chairman of the Indian Colony as saying, “Our people always believed that the Creator blesses us, and our ancestors who camped along the river here. We try to plan for the 7th generation.” But what would the Creator say about the dark store left on Northtowne Lane?
The new superstore sits across the street from the Grand Sierra Resort. There used to be a gardening and landscaping store on the Wal-Mart site. The Paiute Indians have a stake in the new store. They are a partner in the project. The Native Americans have brought to Reno a 185,000 s.f. superstore with a 1,000 space parking expanse, like a huge black field. Channel 2 referred to the store as a “24-hour monster.”
To show their awareness of native culture, Wal-Mart used “earth tone colors and tiles representing each of the 3 local tribes” for the outside of the store. But inside, the money is still green. The TV station quoted one shopper as saying, “It’s a bit fancier than other Wal-Marts.”
But Channel 2 noted the “downside” of the ribbon-cutting for the 5th superstore in the Reno area. “Although employees are transferred (from the old store), often when a new Wal-Mart opens, another closes… sometimes staying that way for years,” Channel 2 said. The store that Wal-Mart has shuttered was opened in 1994 — only 16 years ago.
Wal-Mart is not done with this kind of ‘leap-frog’ sprawl. One store is closed, just so the company can open a larger store across the street or down the road. The city has to build more water and sewer lines to accommodate the new facility, while the ‘old’ store goes unused, attracting vandals and decay.
Over the past 15 years, Wal-Mart has been on a rampage to shut down all of its discount store formats — hundreds of them — to build leapfrog superstores nearby. No other retailer in the history of America has been so wasteful with land and buildings. Instead of converting its existing stores into a superstore format — what is known as an ‘inbox conversion,’ Wal-Mart has abandoned any discount store that it could not make larger.
Ironically, these store closures continue even as Wal-Mart announced this week at its analysts conference that it was moving towards smaller store footprints, including smaller superstores. Too late for the Northtowne Wal-Mart in Reno.
The company has also announced that it has plans to build another Wal-Mart superstore on Sky Vista Parkway. There is only one Wal-Mart discount store left in Reno, and it’s only a matter of time before that unit is closed as well.
Readers are urged to email Reno Mayor Bob Cashell at [email protected] with the following message:
“Dear Mayor Cashell, You are a gaming executive, but I’m sure you don’t like gambling with public revenues. When you open a Wal-Mart by shutting down a Wal-Mart, you can appreciate the zero sum game that entails.
Most of the Wal-Mart workers who lost their store on Northtowne Lane will be transferred to the superstore — so there will be little net job gain from the superstore opening. There will be other jobs lost at places like Safeway and Save Mart, so the net job gain could be zero or less. Those are not good odds.
In the meantime, the city now has to worry about the ‘old’ Wal-Mart, which was opened in 1994. That store was killed off at 16 years old. Does that strike you as good land use policy?
Reno should have in place a demolition bond requirement, so that if Wal-Mart, or any other retailer, shuts down a store and leaves it empty for 12 months, you have the right to tear it down at the company’s expense. People in Reno may think that land is an infinite resource, but the wasteful pattern that Wal-Mart has exhibited is environmentally and economically harmful to Reno.
The only winners in this retail gamble are the top executives at Wal-Mart. Not their shareholders, not their low-wage, low benefit employees, and certainly not the taxpayers of Reno, who are already saturated with Wal-Mart superstores.
It’s time to stop the sprawling of Reno, and draw the line against further unsustainable growth like Wal-Mart.”