Wal-Mart likes to brag that it rarely if ever shuts down a superstore. Later this month, it’s not only going to shut down a superstore — it’s going to close a mega-superstore. According to the Kansas City Business Journal, Wal-Mart is going to turn the lights out at a 270,000 s.f. supercenter at the Benjamin Plaza this month. The retailer is opening up another supercenter nearby, but the Journal said that a Wal-Mart spokesman admitted that the company “decided to close the supercenter because it has an inefficient layout and, at 270,000 square feet, is bigger than stores the company is building now.” This mega-superstore was built in 1990, and having reached its 16th birthday, was apparently at the end of its usefulness to Wal-Mart. The Benjamin Plaza is near the Bannister Mall, which opened in 1980, and was one of the largest regional malls in Kansas City. But Bannister became nearly vacant by 2005. Despite the presence of the super huge Wal-Mart in the area, shoppers did not stop by enough to support the Benjamin Plaza, and as it went down, it brought down the Wal-Mart too. Wal-Mart’s store at Benjamin Plaza employed 400 people. Wal-Mart said they all will be offered new jobs in other Wal-Mart stores. Wal-Mart owns the Benjamin Plaza superstore, which is now a super White Elephant.
What is an “inefficient layout” to Wal-Mart? Is a single-story box that can fit four football fields “efficient?” Certainly not from a land use or environmental perspective. Wal-Mart likes to talk about “green” stores with “waterless urinals,” but the building itself is energy inefficient, wastes land like no other company, and is left empty within twenty years. If the classic downtowns of America were built with these disposable buildings, we would have had entire downtowns relocating every 20 years. This store lasted 16 years — which by Wal-Mart standards is probably a pretty good run. But Wal-Mart Realty now has try to rent or sell this cavernous building, which is the size of five and a half football fields. Wal-Mart currently has six dead stores for sale or lease in Missouri, and more than 300 nationally. Wal-Mart is #1 when it comes to inefficient building footprint. They can recycle a cardboard shipping box, but they leave 26 million square feet of empty stores scarring the landscape.