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2008-04-26
Carver, East Bethel & St. Cloud, MN. Wal-Mart Cancels or Delays 5 More Superstores

At the end of its 2007 fiscal year, Wal-Mart had 28 discount stores in Minnesota, 26 supercenters, and 13 Sam's Clubs. Today, the discount stores have fallen to 21, and the supercenter count jumped to 39. That means Wal-Mart has another 21 discount stores it wants to close down or expand into supercenters. The company is carrying 5 "dark stores" in Minnesota that it wants to sell or lease -- a total of 451,992 s.f. of dead stores -- not counting all the land around them. Now Wal-Mart has walked away from five more superstores that it planned on building -- all in Minnesota -- bringing the Sprawl-Busters count of delayed or cancelled Wal-Mart super projects to 55 since last June's announcement that the retailer was moderating its growth plans. A report in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal says that Wal-Mart has cancelled three stores, and delayed two more. The canned projects are part of Wal-Mart's companywide U.S growth slowdown. Wal-Mart's international division has become the more promising growth sector for the company. "We recently abandoned efforts for stores in Carver, East Bethel and St. Cloud that we had been working on," said a senior manager of public affairs and government relations for Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has no store in Carver -- but there are 4 Wal-Marts within 20 miles of Carver, including a superstore just 11 miles away in Shakopee, Minnesota. Wal-Mart has no stores in East Bethel -- but there are 10 Wal-Mart stores within 20 miles, including a superstore in Maple Grove. In St. Cloud, there already is a Wal-Mart discount store on 33rd Avenue, but Wal-Mart told the Business Journal, "We would still like to relocate in St. Cloud, but the site we were working on became cost-prohibitive due to required offsite improvements." Wal-Mart added 13 supercenters in Minnesota in the past year, while dropping 5 discount store. But in 2008 and 2009, the company plans to open only 2 supercenters each year. The Journal reports that a superstore in Cottage Grove is also on ice -- putting a whole mall in limbo. But Cottage Grove has 12 Wal-Mart stores within 20 miles, including a supercenter less than 7 miles away in Hastings, Minnesota. In Brooklyn Center Minnesota, population 27,000, there's a Wal-Mart supercenter 9 miles away in Maple Grove. Work on a Wal-Mart supercenter in Brookliyn Center likewise has been delayed for at least a year, holding up work on another plaza. Despite these five projects falling off the table, Wal-Mart's spokesman told the Business Journal, "There hasn't been a ton of pullback in Minnesota."

What you can do: The Minnesota Business Journal quotes an official at the Center for Retailing Excellance at the University of St. Thomas as explaining that "Wal-Mart has built too many stores too close together and too many big stores in small markets in recent years." A superstore can generate $100 million a year in sales -- two to three times more than a standard discount store. Carver has a population of less than 2,700 people, East Bethel around 12,000, and St. Cloud around 67,000 people. The smaller markets are clearly already saturated. In Cottage Grove, population 33,000, Wal-Mart was the anchor store for a 700,000 s.f. mall. "You can't move forward with a project the size of the one we're proposing without an anchor tenant signed and committed," said a spokesman for the developer in Cottage Grove. "A lot of big-box retailers are going through projects that are on the radar screen and doing a triage process, deciding which will live and which will die," said a commercial real estate official in Minnesota. Readers are urged to contact Carver Mayor Jim Weygand at jimweygand@aol.com with the following message: "Mayor Weygand, You say that the Carver City Council will 'make policy which is mindful of Carver's future and respectful of its past.' The suburban sprawl that comes with a huge Wal-Mart supercenter is incompatible with your city's historic character. Your city is 'a great place to call home,' but you don't really need a Wal-Mart supercenter to call it home. Now that Wal-Mart has left you at the altar, the best thing to do is pass a city zoning ordinance that limits the size of retail buildings to 75,000 s.f. in keeping with the very small scale and population of your city. Your Land Use Plan says 'the downtown should retain its role as the core of the City,' but that's not going to happen if you build superstores on the edge of the city. Make Big Box stores fit Carver, not the reverse."










 
 
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