What’s the lifespan of a Wal-Mart building? The folks in Wood River, Illinois feel lucky to have gotten 20 years out of their 104,000 s.f. discount store, and now its being torn down, one of hundreds of Wal-Mart stores each year that the company considers obsolete. “I feel that store served its purpose there for 20 years,” Nancy Schneider, the director of finance for the city of Wood River, told the Alton Telegraph. Two decades is pretty much the outside limit, but some Wal-Mart stores are shut down before they reach age 10. In the case of Wood River, the city spent $300,000 in tax breaks for Wal-Mart, a form of corporate welfare called TIF (tax incremental financing), plus $8 million in tax rebates. The city’s money was used to pay for roads to the old Wal-Mart store, and storm water management culverts — which would not have been needed except to serve Wal-Mart. The city does not think about the corporate welfare they threw at the world’s largest retailer — which easily could have paid for the improvement itself, but instead officials focused on the new superstore that Wal-Mart is building to replace the “old” store. How many businesses in Wood Park have been around far longer than 20 years, and how many of them got any tax break as part of the deal? Tearing the building down cost $250,000, a bill picked up by the land’s developer. The city believes the new supercenter nearby will generate $1 million in sales taxes per year — but that fails to subtract the lost revenues at other stores, especially grocery stores. As much as 80% of Wal-Mart’s sales will be captured from existing merchants, whose sales taxes will fall. Plus the city says it will get another $400,000 in sales taxes from other merchants that Wal-Mart attracts. The city apparently has not attempted to measure the offsetting municipal costs to police and fire, water and sewer that the larger store will bring. City officials also read off of Wal-Mart’s press release that the store “will generate 450 full-time jobs” which is far too high for the superstore, and doesn’t net out the jobs lost elsewhere in the trade area. When all is said and done, the job gain could be negligible, or a minus. Local merchants who sell bakery items, deli goods, meats, seafood, liquor, auto parts, phones, and gasoline — all will lose jobs and sales, because Wal-Mart is just a form of retail cannibalism. In fact, this new supercenter will eat into sales at nearby Wal-Marts in Granite City, Glen Carbon and Collinsville, Illinois, and Ferguson, Missouri — all of which are less than 15 miles away from the new store.
For a photo of the Wood River Wal-Mart being torn down, contact [email protected] Illinois currently has 16 empty Wal-Marts available for lease or purchase. It’s all part of Wal-Mart’s “open and shut” system. The Arkansas-based retailer has closed more stores than any other retailer in the history of the United States. Consider yourself lucky if a Wal-Mart lasts 20 years. For similar stories, search Newsflash by “empty” or “dark stores.”