(By Dale King) BENTONVILLE, Ark. – International retail giant Walmart is about to complete the shuttering of 269 stores around the globe – 154 of them in the United States – making good on a promise made early in 2016 to focus on “strengthening Supercenters, optimizing Neighborhood Markets [and] growing e-commerce business,” according to Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart Stores, Inc.
Experts in the retail field say McMillon’s third point – referencing the cyber-market – may be the most important of all.
“Amazon is a major competitor. It would be naïve to think that [the impact of] Amazon is not involved, I would say,” said Marshall S. Clinkscales Jr., a principal of Colliers International in Houston, a commercial real estate services firm.
“All Internet sales are taking a bigger percentage of the retail business. One of my colleagues at the company said he purchases 100 percent of his paper products through Amazon.”
At the same time, he and Ed Wulfe, a shopping center developer at Wulfe & Co. in Houston, allayed fears that the shutdown of the massive retailer’s stores was anything other than an adjustment in the company’s sales strategy.
“There is no indication of softness in the market,” said Wulfe, pointing out that Walmart had “expanded rather aggressively,” so a “market-share loss” was not out of the question, particularly with heavy competition from other stores, particularly supermarkets.
McMillon make it clear in his statement that Walmart is not pulling out of the marketplace, but, rather, moving forward cautiously. “Closing stores is never an easy decision, but it is necessary to keep the company strong and positioned for the future. It’s important to remember that we’ll open well over 300 stores around the world next year. So we are committed to growing, but we are being disciplined about it.”
Texas is taking a big hit with the loss of 29 stores state-wide. Two of them are in the Houston area, a Neighborhood Market on Gessner Road and a Supercenter on 1960 Road West in Willowbrook. A Walmart spokeswoman said the firm will open 25 stores in Texas this year and that, coupled with the 50 Walmarts added to Texas turf in 2015, more than compensates for the two closings.
She said Walmart has actually brought a total of some 10,000 jobs to Texas during 2015 and 2016. That’s equal to the number of domestic employees losing their jobs at Walmart. The firm said it hopes to relocate most at other Walmart stores or provide a severance package.
Internationally, another 6,000 Walmart workers are being released.
The U.S. closings are somewhat spotty, leading to questions and concerns by citizens watching the nation’s ongoing limp job growth. The southeastern United States seems to bear a heavy brunt of shutdowns. The West Coast is only lightly touched. Northern New England was spared, but Southern New England is losing three Sam’s Club stores, in Seekonk and Fall River, Massachusetts and Warwick, Rhode Island. Another Sam’s Club is closing in Michigan.
Walmart appears to be selectively realigning its retail presence. A company statement offered the following breakdown of U.S. shutdowns: All 102 of its Walmart Express small format stores, 23 Neighborhood Markets, 12 Supercenters, seven Amigo stores in Puerto Rico, six discount centers, and four Sam’s Clubs. The firm said stores being closed internationally are mainly money-losers.
The company is looking to buttress its future and perk up is e-commerce sector, McMillon’s statement said. “Domestically, Walmart intends to open 50 to 60 Supercenters and 85 to 95 Neighborhood Markets in fiscal 2017, which begins Feb. 1. In the same period, Sam’s Club plans to open in seven to 10 new locations. Internationally, Walmart intends to open between 200 and 240 stores during the coming year.”
Jan 20, 2016