There are 5 Wal-Marts within 25 miles of Oxford, North Carolina, including three supercenters, and one discount store right in Oxford. The supercenter in Henderson is less than 9 miles away. So the area is already saturated with Wal-Marts. The Herald Sun newspaper reports that a cluster of approved Wal-Mart supercenters are now on ice, despite the warm weather in the Research Triangle region. The newspaper claims that the store pullbacks trace back to Wal-Mart’s sudden announcement last June that it was scaling back the number of new supercenters by more than 25%, and expecting at least 80 stores in the review process for 2007 to be pushed back until 2008. Two supercenters in southern Durham and now frozen. The Durham store planned for MLK Jr. Parkway has approval to file for building permits. “It’s on the shelf, waiting to go,” he said. Supercenters proposed for Butner, Oxford and Creedmoor are also up in the air. Original plans for these stores were to have them open by August of 2008, but now that is not going to happen. Local officials in all three communities have approved the stores, but Wal-Mart has not committed to any timetable. “Due to the change in number of stores we cannot, in good faith, give accurate timelines on these projects at present,” a Wal-Mart spokesman admitted. The Mayor of Butner told the newspaper, “What I had heard was that they were going to review each of them individually before they started building any more.” Oxford’s Mayor Al Woodlief told the paper he is confident Wal-Mart will build in Oxford — but Wal-Mart has never given him a timeline. Many residents in his small community are just as happy, because they have expressed concerns that Wal-Mart will have an adverse impact on the city’s quaint, picturesque downtown. The Mayor said he recently asked Granville County’s Economic Development Director Leon Turner what Wal-Mart’s plans were. “And he said that they, rather than going in locations where they weren’t, they were going in locations were they were,” the Mayor said. In other words, if you have a Wal-Mart discount store in your town, it will soon be history, as Wal-Mart replaces it, or expands it into a supercenter.
There are 9 empty Wal-Marts today in North Carolina, with a total of roughly 600,000 s.f. of empty space. This wasted square footage is a direct result of Wal-Mart’s closing of discount stores that were operating at a profit — but lacking a grocery store. If a supercenter opens in Oxford, the Wal-Mart discount store will close. There are now 91 supercenters in North Carolina, and only 21 discount stores left. Just 10 years ago, the numbers were reversed: 82 discount stores, and 1 supercenter. This reformatting of their stores has not necessarily resulted in new jobs or revenues, since the superstore growth has only shifted grocery market share away from existing merchants. Wal-Mart’s outsourcing of products to Third World nations has done a real number on North Carolina’s textile manufacturing industry. The state has lost thousands of production workers, who now take dramatically lower wages at Wal-Mart. The retailer has suffered from its own overbuilding, and the slowdown of stores in the Durham/Raleigh area is a symptom of that over-supply of superstores. Meanwhile, the company’s same store sales growth has slipped dramatically from 13% in 1987, to 2% in 2007. Same store sales, which come from stores that have been open for at least a year, is a key indicator of a company’s economic health. The excesses of Wal-Mart’s saturation strategy can now be seen in Wal-Mart’s retrenchment in North Carolina. The Mayor of Oxford says he wants to attract “businesses and industry that will employ and encourage people in a higher income bracket to live in Oxford will bring more expendable income, be better for business and aid growth for the entire city. Oxford needs to continue with its plan to keep a small town appeal while offering some big town benefits.” Readers are urged to give Oxford Mayor Woodlief a call at 919-663-1100. Tell the Mayor, “I agree with your statement that ‘Oxford’s strongest point is its people and the small town appeal.’ If you let Wal-Mart build its supercenter, your existing discount store will close. You should be pleased that their supercenter plans are on hold. Wal-Mart and small town character are incompatible.”