Friday, May 11, 2012

Micro Wal-Mart near Charlotte

There's a miniature Wal-Mart outside Charlotte, one of only 10 in the nation, and this pea-sized version of the biggest mega-retailer could be the precursor of a major shift away from big-box strategy.

As detailed in this blog post from UNC-Charlotte's Urban Institute, the Wal-Mart Express is a 15,000 square foot store about 30 miles outside of Charlotte, in Stanly County. At that square footage, the Express store is barely 1/12th the size of a standard Wal-Mart Supercenter and not even twice as large as the average Family Dollar.

So why would a retailer that made its name gobbling up greenfield sites by the hundreds of acres even contemplate downsizing? Wal-Mart has been under-performing smaller stores for several years now, with a well-publicized U.S. sales slide that lasted for longer than two years. During the same time, at the height of the recession, the popularity of discount retailers Family Dollar, Dollar General, and Dollar Tree exploded.

The smaller stores are located either in rural areas too small to support a big box, or in urban areas too small to fit one. In a city like Charlotte, customers in many neighborhoods can either drive or take a bus to Wal-Mart or walk to a Family Dollar. This ease of accessibility, combined with low prices, helped lure in many customers who might otherwise have gone to Wal-Mart.

Dollar stores were quick to recognize and capitalize on this trend. They've added a much wider assortment of groceries and consumable goods - Family Dollar just added cigarettes - and shifted away from former dollar store staples such as low-priced apparel. Stanly County's Wal-Mart Express is next to a Dollar General.

Both dollar stores and mega-retailers have emerged as major grocery players (Wal-Mart just overtook Harris Teeter as the number one grocery retailer in the Charlotte region), but dollar stores seem more suited to the "fill-in trip," that mid-week dash for milk and eggs. A smaller Wal-Mart format positions the retailer to capture more of that traffic as well.

It remains to be seen if the Wal-Mart Express experiment will succeed, or ever pop up in Charlotte itself. Until then, you can drive to Richfield, Stanly County, if you want to get a peek into the future.


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21 comments:

Anonymous said...

I avoid Walmart if I can, opting for Fred's or Dollar Tree. Why? Easy in and out, less hubbub and traffic. Walmart is a giant zoo. Yes, I occasionally have to go for things the others don't have, but the shopping experience is better at the smaller stores and the prices are comparable.

Anonymous said...

I agree Walmart is a zoo and the people that shop there are rude, they spit on the ground, drop trash. I hate it if I have to go to Walmart and the last few times I did go, I left empty handed as they did not have what I was looking for. I like Dollar General, and Family Dollar. Fred's is okay but they need to police the perimeter for trash also.

WashuOtaku said...

Amused first post was simply a person's dislike for Wal-Mart. Oh, how many times we have heard the same thing?

Anonymous said...

I can walk to Wal-Mart, so I guess I am in the minority!

Anonymous said...

And who gets the kangaroo krispy for knowing where to find the nation's smallest Wal-mart...anybody?

Anonymous said...

Actually, Walmart has had the express stores for quite a while - definately before the recession. These stores were meant to serve areas whose demographics wouldn't support a full sized walmart (similar to the Harris Teeter Express stores). Like many retailers, Walmart does build on previously undeveloped land. They also redevelop properties to better serve some areas. Examples of this can be seen here in Charlotte where they replaced abandoned shopping centers on Indpendence Blvd and Wilkinson Blvd, bringing new retail and jobs to otherwise blighted areas. I'm not certain why outlets such as the Observer enjoy bashing Walmart so much. This is just another example of the elitist, out of touch mentality that is killing this paper.

Anonymous said...

I've been there and the flatscreen TV's are tiny

Anonymous said...

we have mini-walmarts on every corner... walgreens

Former resident of CLT said...

Why the continued Wal Mart bashing by the Charlotte Observer? What the CO should be bashing is itself for being such a lousy piece of media. So Wal Mart is experimenting, so what. It's their right, and any other retailer to get as much of the consumers dollar as is legally possible. If Wal Mart, or any other retailer wasn't in demand it would cease to exist. Ely if you would do some investigating you would find K-Mart tried a similar philosophy of smaller stores. They were called Jupiter & Kresge and were formally McCrory's five and dime before being bought by the SS Kresge company, at that time the parent company of Kmart. At one time there was a Jupiter store in the shopping center at the intersection of The Plaza and Eastway Drive. The concept did not work for Kmart, it may or may not work for Wal Mart. Keep on knocking Wal Mart though. It's great advertising for Wal Mart. Wal Mart will be around long after the Charlotte Observer sells again after it's value keeps plunging.

Anonymous said...

That walmart is more expensive than the usual ones. One every visit, I have yet to find everything I need for my grocery list. It's done nothing for Richfield.

Mary Newsom said...

Ely, thanks for picking up on Josh McCann's excellent article. It's from a new website (not just a blog) from the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, called PlanCharlotte.org.

Anonymous said...

I love Harris Teeter and would never buy my regular groceries at Walmart. I avoid it at all costs. If I have to have something and am desperate I will go.

Anonymous said...

Walmart plans for one of these stores in Wesley Heights in the place of the old "Jesus Saves" building that was torn down last year. The had announced this on Fox News last year through the host Brian Kilmeade.

Anonymous said...

yo squirt

you not too popular are you?

maybe you be fired as irrelevant soon.

we hope just be looking for a job even though if you are scrawny and wussified

walmart? can you work a cash register? clean johns?

Anonymous said...

This Is WAALMART KUNTRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ely Portillo said...

Well, Anonymous 2:33, it's always good to have a backup plan. Yes, I could probably learn to work a register or clean johns.

Anonymous said...

Walmarts a gift from God!!!
Proof of his existence

Anonymous said...

the walmart express where I live (north of Charlotte) has milk for 2.75 / gal, eggs for 1/dz, bread for .75/loaf. when I asked them why, they said it was because they were locating these stores in areas where lots of people were on fixed incomes and they wanted to make sure they had access to inexpensive decent quality food. b***h all you want about Walmart; you can't argue with that logic.

Nameless said...

Does anyone remember that Target used to be Richway and Gold Circle? What a dive those were.

We love our Arboretum Walmart. All the workers know us. I go into Target...strangers.

I like HT too, but paying 30% more is getting really old.

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