In communities all across the country, citizens groups are fighting Wal-Mart and town officials to block the opening of 24 hour supercenters. Overnight operations don’t produce more property taxes for the host community — but they do place added financial burdens on police and emergency response services. As a rule, Wal-Mart will bitterly oppose any attempts to restrict their overnight hours — but if local officials are firm on the matter — the company would rather be open limited hours than not open at all. In an unusual reversal of roles, in the Bashford Manor section of Louisville, Kentucky, it is Wal-Mart that wants to cut back its 24/7 hours, and local neighbors who want it to stay open. According to the Courier-Journal newspaper, the Wal-Mart supercenter in Bashford Manor has been open just over two years — but unlike the other 4 Wal-Mart supercenters in the city, the Bashford Manor site doesn’t get overnight shoppers enough to warrant staying open. Wal-Mart announced recently that it was cutting the store’s hours back to 7 am to midnight. Some neighbors are upset — not necessarily because they shopped at 3 am, but because they fear the reduced hours means the supercenter’s overall economic performance may be weak, and the retailer might close the operation. Naturally, a Wal-Mart spokesman shrugged off any concerns about the store pulling out. “We’re open when our customers need us to be open,” the spokesperson said. The Bashford Manor Wal-Mart sits on the site of a former mall that closed, so neighbors are afraid they will be left holding an empty store once again. “We worked so hard to get Wal-Mart here in this area and we don’t want this to be like Bashford Manor Mall,” said the head of the Bashford Manor Area Association. Residents think that because only their Wal-Mart has reduced hours, the rest of the city will think Bashford Manor has a problem. The Wal-Mart spokesman said a superstore’s hours are not cast in concrete, like the store itself. She said a store’s hours are not fixed on the day it opens. “The hours change,” she said. The newspaper reports that many neighbors had hoped that Wal-Mart’s arrival would stabilize the area. “I was just hoping that our area would kind of get back on the map,” one resident told the Courier-Journal.
A neighborhood has to be down on its knees if a Wal-Mart supercenter is going to “put it on the map.” That’s a map hundreds of communities don’t want to be on. In Lancaster, Massachusetts, residents this week are gathering signatures to urge town selectmen to insist that a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter not be allowed to stay open all night. In Tooele, Utah, police are searching for the band of youth who stabbed a Wal-Mart employee in the parking lot of the store at 4:30 am. I remember the police chief in Tappahannock, Virginia telling me he’d love to see the all-night Wal-Mart in his community close up, because it had become a gathering place for drug addicts late at night. The fact is, Wal-Mart parking lots have been the scene of some of our country’s most brutal crimes — and communities gain no added value from a store that stays open all night. Some people in Bashford Manor think a store selling cheap Chinese goods at 3 am will put them on the map. But no doubt others in Bashford Manor would sleep better at night knowing that Wal-Mart had a curfew. For earlier stories, search Neswsflash by “24 hours.”