Wal-Mart is pulling the plug on its latest experiment, leaving a slew of small towns devastated in its wake.
The Wal-Mart Express initiative opened up convenience-store sized outlets just 12,000-15,000 square feet in size in small towns. However, after two years, the experiment failed, because Wal-Mart was unable to earn enough for its upkeep in these rural counties — leading to the closure of 102 Wal-Mart Express stores across the U.S. and wreaking havoc on these small communities that depended on them.
Wal-Mart’s unplanned departure has left many of these towns even worse off than they were two years before.
Some towns complain that they had their own mom-and-pop stores that went out of business when Wal-Mart came along. Now the multinational retail corporation is disappearing too, leaving them without any local pharmacies or grocery stores.
Barb Venturi, the mayor of Oriental County, North Carolina, has expressed concerns that with no grocery stores in their locality, property prices are bound to drop substantially. The closing of Wal-Mart Express has posed a grave problem for the small town with 900 inhabitants, a majority of whom are elderly, and where the nearest grocery and pharmacy is a 50-minute drive away.
In some places, closed businesses might reopen now that Wal-Mart has left the field. In Merkel, Texas, the Lawrence Brothers grocery store, which recently closed, is planning to pick up where the Express store left off.
The owner of Town’nCountry store in Oriental County, Renee Ireland Smith, said that the store immediately experienced a loss of 30% as soon as Wal-Mart opened up its doors in 2014. Whenever she tried to lower her own prices, the retail giant counteracted by further dropping theirs. Smith’s mother invested a further $100,000 into the doomed venture but she still had to close by October 2014.
“They ruined our lives,” said Smith of Wal-Mart. “They came in here with their experiment and ruined us.”
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