On March 14, 2007, Wal-Mart sacked its discount store in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, and opened up a larger superstore in neighboring Bedford. The Bedford store is referred to as the Bedford/Sackville store, and is located on Damascus Road, Bedford, NS.
Nearly two and a half years later, the ‘old’ Wal-Mart discount store in Lower Sackville is still sitting empty. According to the Halifax News Net, some people in Sackville “are still too angry with Wal-Mart for moving to Bedford” that they don’t care what happens to the empty eyesore Wal-Mart left behind in the Downsview Plaza.
The Downsview Plaza is Sackville’s largest shopping center. It has a Canadian Tire, Staples, Sobeys, Shopper’s Drug Mart, Dollarama, The Source and many smaller stores — but not a Wal-Mart.
A 15 minute drive away is the Bayer’s Lake Business Park in Bedford, which has the ‘big box’ stores like Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Costco.
Like its counterpart in America, Wal-Mart Canada has been aggressively replacing the smaller stores it took over in 1994 from the Woolco chain, a division of Woolworth Canada. A dozen years later, in 2006, Wal-Mart Canada started imitating its U.S. division, and began scrapping its old Woolco stores to build larger supercenters.
Today, Wal-Mart Canada has 300 stores across Canada, and have left behind a trail of dead stores that become local eyesores.
In Sackville, angry residents created a Facebook page that focuses on the future of their dead Wal-Mart. Some residents hope that another American big box store will come to their rescue, like Target. Some are hoping that a Zellers will take over the building.
But some residents want to be done with big box speculation, and instead use the site for a go-cart track, roller skating rink or the old Sackville Downs racetrack.
The Sackville Drive Business Association (SDBA) hired a consultant to solicit opinions from the public about what they’d like to see at the dead Wal-Mart. Based on the survey, it seems that the Wal-Mart ‘love ’em and leave ’em’ experience left a lot of scars.
The head of the SDBA Chair Tara Hill said their 2008 survey indicated that people in Sackville want more stores that carry clothes, shoes and accessories, specialty items and items for the home. The survey also revealed that residents would prefer to spend their money in Sackville if they had the choice.
The SDBA itself has opinions about what Sackville needs. “I’d like to see a bookstore perhaps, maybe with a coffee shop,” the Association’s spokesperson said. “Or maybe a good old fashioned bakery to pick up specialty breads or treats for when company is coming over.”
The business group says local shoppers still are loyal to the Downsview Plaza, despite the fact that Wal-Mart walked out. The giant retailer’s bad handling of the Sackville community also led to some tightening up of local zoning laws.
In 2007 the community passed By-Law Number D-300, the “Derelict Building Law, ?? which says that when a building is deemed to be derelict, the municipality may direct the owner to remedy the condition as specified in an order.
One local official said, however, that the law does not apply to the empty Wal-Mart, because that property is part of the Downsview Plaza, which has other businesses that are still operating.
Post-Wal-Mart, Sackville is trying to reinvent itself, and get away from the big box appearance. The SDBA is working on a Streetscape Plan that will improve the visual appearance of Sackville Drive. “I know the association is working on repairing a small bridge and creating a green space at the foot of Riverside Drive not far from the old Wal-Mart location,” a spokesman for the SDBA said.
According to the Halifax News Net, residents in Lower Sackville have had to put up with this empty store by “continuing to avert their eyes when they drive by the old building.” They may have to keep looking away for quite some time to come, as the Halifax News Net — because Wal-Mart is still the tenant in the old building until January of 2012.
The way most of these leases work, Wal-Mart’s rent payments were based on a low base rent, plus a percentage of sales. When the store goes dark, sales disappear, and the company only has to pay the very low base rent — which is why Wal-Mart could financially afford to move out of Sackville and into a larger superstore.
Readers are urged to call Wal-Mart Canada’s Customer Service Hotline at (800) 328-0402 with the following message: “Wal-Mart should put some effort into helping the people in Sackville find another tenant to move into your old store — which has sat empty now for two and half years.
Instead of just letting that store sit idle — Wal-Mart Canada should spent the resources necessary to help market that property for others. It’s said that Wal-Mart likes to keep its dead stores tied up so that competitors don’t move in — but you’ve made Sackville wait long enough while you sit on your lease.
You abandoned Sackville — now its time to help the community move on with its business.”