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2000-02-12
Alamosa, CO. City Gets Second Wal-Mart

Seventeen years ago, the city of Alamosa, Colorado had a fight over the building of a discount Wal-Mart store. An 80,000 s.f. Wal-Mart store kicked up local opposition from the business community, but folks in Alamosa say that the merchants eventually "adapted". Now, long after the 1983 battle, Wal-Mart is back with a bigger store, and this time merchants seem to have given up the fight. "We know Wal-Mart would be hard to stop," moans the head of the Chamber of Commerce. "We're aggressivelyl advertising the downtown and people are starting to realize we offer a lot in specialty stores and services. We see it as an opportunity." But local businessperson Beth Mertinez is not fooled. She runs a ladies clothing store in downtown Alamosa, and in her window is a sign that reads "Another Local Businiess Against Super Wal-Mart". "For every super Wal-Mart they have built, they have put 100 mom and pop stores out of business," Martinez told the Denver Post. "Except for paying taxes, none of Wal-Mart's money stays in the community, it goes to Arkansas. Every dollar from my store stays in the valley." The "old" Wal-Mart store will close when the new one opens. The old store will then join several hundred other dead Wal-Mart stores to be listed as an "available building" on the list of Wal-Mart Real Estate -- a list that comprised more than 20 million square feet of empty stores.

What you can do: Wal-Mart's line these days is that their store is a retail magnet, attracting shoppers who will buy goods at other merchants. This defies logic. You are either one stop shopping, or you are not. Studies do not support the Wal-Mart claim of helping downtown businesses. I have recorded such studies in my book, "Slam Dunking Wal-Mart." But local business groups often prayerfully repeat the thought that Wal-Mart is an "opportunity" for them. Wal-Mart is an "opportunity" for them to go out of business, or crawl into some niche like selling tropical fish (see index for story of Jerseyville, IL). Alamosa officials are willing to permit Wal-Mart to close an 80,000 s.f. store, open a 183,221 s.f store, and annex 163 acres of land into the city's west side. They mistake a new building for "progress". This kind of sprawling, edge development adds little to the economic base of the community, and will largely impact existing grocery stores in town, since all the supercenter brings that's not already there is more food. "We've seen many businesses thrive," says Daphne Davis, a Wal-Mart spokesperson, "particularly in rural areas, because our stores are retail magnets that bring people to town." The force of Wal-Mart's magnetism pulls dollars away from existing merchants. We don't know what part of rural America Wal-Mart has helped, but we've seen an enormous amount of For Sale signs in downtown America. In Alamosa, they have just wasted another 163 acres of a very limited resource, just so a retail company can gain a little more market share. Is this the highest and best use of land in Alamosa, Colorado?










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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