Our View: Walmart closures not the end of the world for small towns

You know, with all this bellyaching going on regarding the closing of some Walmart stores, mostly those tiny convenience store types, and how this is so devastating to small towns and the communities they were located, it makes us want to bust out laughing. There is not a person reading this who doesn’t have a love/hate relationship with Walmart, and we dare say most anyone who has studied the business tactics of this giant retailer knows very well that it destroys the small town grocer, the hometown hardware store where the local men would gather for morning coffee and the cozy local dress shops where the ladies would gather to try on the latest fashions. Oh, and let’s certainly not forget about the corner drug store where, as kids we couldn’t wait to sit on those counter stools, sipping our fountain drinks and cherishing our favorite hand-dipped ice cream cones. We’ve seen many a small town main street business fall prey to the mighty discount retailer over the decades. One perfect example is West Memphis’ “Main Street,” along East Broadway, where there was once Ray’s Hardware, locally owned Western Auto, and scores of popular mom-and-pop entrepreneurs who were known throughout the community as a place to shop and be seen. Oh, but now that this giant retailer has decided to cut its losses and is shuttering some of its unprofitable small stores, we are reading online stories with such ridiculous headlines like “Walmart Closures Leaving Small Towns ‘Broken’.” This particular story, which appeared on Good Morning America, described this woman in the tiny coastal town of Oriental, North Carolina, as saying, “This town was fine before. Now it’s broken.” Come on, give us a break with this being a victim and the liberal media trying to create a situation that isn’t altogether accurate. Here are the facts: On Jan. 15, Walmart announced that it was closing 269 of it’s stores worldwide, including 154 sites in the U.S. Shares of Walmart have fallen nearly 30 percent in the past 12 months. Brian Nick, senior director of corporate communications at Walmart, told ABC news that in 2011, the mega-retailer had tested a pilot program of small Express stores with about 15 to 20 employees. He said that Walmart evaluated the program and decided to discontinue it. Here’s the big picture on this: Of the 154 stores closing, 102 of them are these Express stores, which are not, and we repeat, not the big Walmart stores most of us are familiar with, nor the so-called “Neighborhood” stores like the new one in Marion. The truth of the matter is that Walmart attempted, and failed, to compete with the growing number of branded stores, such as Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar General that are cropping up all over small town America. And, in the case of this whining woman in North Carolina, let us point out that there is a Walmart Super Center located within five miles of the closed location. Here’s our point: Stop the whining, stop being that hypocrite and become that entrepreneur who once made those small towns without a Walmart what they once were. Rather than Walmart closing being taken as a negative, look at it as a great opportunity. And, as importantly, the residents of these small communities should show their support for these “hometown” mom-and-pop business by patronizing them.

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