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2006-05-31
O’ahu, HI. Wal-Mart’s First Hawaiian Supercenter Draws Opponents

These days, you can't pave over paradise without a fight. Wal-Mart has proposed building a superstore in the Kapolei neighborhood of O'ahu, Hawaii, but even before a specific site has been formally announced, the opponents are lining up to do battle. "At this point, we don't have any concrete options that we can talk about," a Wal-Mart spokesman told the Honolulu Advertiser. "We don't have everything nailed down." But local residents are watching a 25 acre property known as the Campbell Estate, which is reportedly under a buy/sell with a developer. The real estate broker handling the deal has represented Wal-Mart in two other Hawaiian stores. As of the end of 2006, Wal-Mart has 8 discount stores in Hawaii, and 2 Sam's clubs -- but no supercenters. Wal-Mart has told the media in Hawaii that small businesses around its urban store on Ke'eaumoku Street have benefited by increased consumer traffic and free parking. "As a company, we believe that competition is a positive thing," the retailer told the Advertiser. "Competition brings better service and better prices to the community." Wal-Mart's Ke'eaumoku store opened in October of 2004, with a Sam's club on the second floor. To build the store, Wal-Mart had to unearth gravesites on the property. If Wal-Mart opens a supercenter in Kapolei, opponents warn that the Big Kmart that opened there six years ago will close, leaving an empty space. The Campbell Estate is near one of the most congested intersections on the island. "I think we have concerns because it's a really bad location," a spokesperson for the Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board told the Advertiser. "If it's a Supercenter, we're concerned what's going to happen to our longtime business owners. We don't want to find out that one store blows all the competition out of the water and leaves us with one store."

What you can do: The proposed Wal-Mart supercenter is not a form of economic development. Most of its sales will be drawn from existing businesses. That's why just about every big box store proposed for Hawaii, including Home Depot, has been opposed by local residents. These mainland stores are changing the character of the islands as well, bringing suburban sprawl, traffic and crime to the distinct nature of Hawaii. How pathetic it will be someday to vacationers who make the long journey to the beaches of Honolulu only to find Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Costco have beaten them there. In terms of impact on tourist dollars, the coming of the big box stores is a big strategic mistake for Hawaii -- one that will not easily be undone. And as for competition, Wal-Mart is not the beginning of competition on the Big Island -- but the end of competition. For related stories, search Newsflash by "Hawaii." For local contacts fighting the Wal-Mart supercenter, go to www.kapoleiFirst.com, or contact:Carolyn@KapoleiFirst.com.










 
 
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