Rock Hill, SC. Big Box Darwinism
On December 4, 2013, Sprawl-Busters reported that city of Rock Hill, South Carolina, a community of roughly 68,000 people, was turning into a grocery store "killing field" with national corporate logos battling it out for market share.
A proposed 180,000 s.f. Wal-Mart superstore and gas station drew out plenty of opposition last month, because it has an apartment complex on one side, and a single family housing neighborhood on the other side. It turns out that this proposed superstore on Saluda Street is just one of 4 new projects that Wal-Mart is pushing in this community. This superstore is 6 miles from another superstore in Rock Hill, and 9 miles from a 3rd superstore in the city.
Wal-Mart is also pushing a 42,000 s.f. Neighborhood Market on 14 acres in Celanese Road with a gas station. This parcel is not zoned correctly, and is not even part of incorporated Rock Hill--so it will have to be annexed. If this Wal-Mart superstore is built, it will be the company's third superstore in Rock Hill.
According to The Herald Online, Wal-Mart has two more Neighborhood Markets in the planning stages for Rock Hill, so this community is being carpet bombed with new Wal-Mart projects---none of which will result in new jobs.
This week the Herald newspaper added the news that Publix, another national grocery chain, has bought up two Bi-Lo grocery stores, in close proximity to the three new Wal-Mart. The Bi-Los saw the writing on the WAL. The Herald counts seven other chain grocery stores and at least a dozen smaller grocers in Rock Hill. "The challenge," the newspaper warns, " is how all of them will differentiate themselves in the market."
One of the competing grocery stores in Rock Hill is Harris Teeter, a North Carolina based chain that is currently being sought by Cincinnati-based Kroger since last July. Kroger is the 2nd largest national grocery chain in America---far behind #1 Wal-Mart. Kroger is purchasing Harris Teeter for about $2.5 billion with blessing from the Federal Trade Commission.
Also in the grocery store mix in Rock Hill is Bi-Lo, Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly, and Target. Consumers in Rock Hill will be tripping over grocery stores. "It's a rough, cruel game, and it's survival of the fittest," supermarket analyst David Livingston, told the Herald. "It's a blitz; you send everyone in at once."
"We look at where are the population centers are, where communities are growing, where the traffic is, the distance between other stores, ours and our competitors," a spokesman for Wal-Mart told the newspaper. The giant retailer has announced it plans to open more than 200 new smaller format stores like Neighborhood Markets and Wal-Mart Express stores over the next year and a half.
What you can do: In response to The Herald's story of The Big Box Blitz in Rock Hill, several readers saw a downside to all this asphalt and concrete. "Give it two or three years following the opening of this new Wal-Mart," one reader wrote, "and then come back and report on any changes to nearby neighborhoods. I can tell you first hand that it'll be nothing but a downhill ride. Wal-Mart opens, employees move closer to work, friends, relatives and even shoppers follow and before it's all over, your home values will drop like a rock. Wait and see."
Another reader commented: "I hate they are going to open a Wal-Mart so close to another Wal-Mart. I don't think we need this. We could drive a mile down the road to shop there. Why do we have to litter our roads with big box stores?"
Supermarket analyst David Livingston told Sprawl-Busters there is a downside to this saturation. "Wal-Mart is blitzing with too much square feet," he said. "Companies with debt and rent, and who can't compete on price will die off quickly. Wal-Mart will just take down the weak players and destroy them. Wal-Mart is continuing its Project Impact of seek and destroy."
What you can do: Readers are urged to email Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols, at firstname.lastname@example.org with the following message:
"Dear Mayor Echols,
Rock Hill already has two Wal-Mart superstores---so anyone in your city who is addicted to cheap Chinese imports doesn't have far to go. There is no need for another Wal-Mart store.
But 4 new Wal-Mart projects is absurd. Obviously Wal-Mart sees Rock Hill as an easy mark, the path of least resistance. But if you listen to your neighbors, they did not move to Rock Hill to see it turn into Retail Hill. More retail at this pace is just saturation, and creates no net new jobs or economic activity.
There is no foolproof way to "buffer" a 41,000 s.f. Neighborhood Market from neighbors. Just the building alone is almost an acre of concrete footprint. The lights, noise and traffic cannot be hidden. Not by berms, fences, walls or swales. It will drag down property values, and leave homeowners financially trapped in their living rooms.
This is not a job-producer. Sit down privately with Bi-Lo, or Food Lion, or any of your local markets and ask them what this project will do to their sales and jobs. The sale of Bi-Lo to Publix does not gain you any new jobs or square footage. And the acquistion of Harris Teeter by Kroger is the same: New logos, same old jobs.
Please remind your City Council that rezoning is not a right. One of the functions of zoning is to prevent incompatible land uses, and create a win-win solution that neighbors can live with--literally.
I urge you to tell Wal-Mart to find another neighborhood to sprawl in, and to look for land that is already properly zoned."