On a Wednesday night, less than a week after our new Walmart announced it would close, it’ll be a wonder if anything will be left to get a deal on by the last day, January 28. Afterall, 25% off groceries at “low low prices” brings us out, even against our better judgement and protestations of “we will never” shop there again. The produce is gone except for some acorn squash. Only the store brand of soft drinks remain. Stacks of DVDs and holiday items line the shelves where the bread used to be. The freezer row is empty except for a couple of bags of peas and the least popular flavors of ice cream. The mid-aisles of baking items, spices or vitamins might last for the 75% off sale, as a Walmart spokesperson said would happen (but not when it would happen. Still word travels fast. We’ll know!).
Ask the associates in the checkout line, “how are you doing?”
Okay, thanks for asking.
Any word on a new job?
Well, they say they’ll let us work at another store.
She goes on to say she’ll have to decide whether she wants to drive that way – toward the west and the Edmond stores, or toward Choctaw to the south or Chandler to the east, where the other Walmarts are. She wonders if she’d get enough hours at those stores that are probably already fully-staffed.
However, Walmart is very concerned about their associates, as you will read in their news releases and hear from their spokespeople.
“We are in the beginning of a process. We care about the communities where we are located as our associates are part of these communities and we’ll continue to speak with local leaders moving forward and do what we can to be helpful. Right now taking care of our associates is our top priority,” said Anne Hatfield, a Walmart spokesperson in San Antonio, Texas.
Hatfield said some of the 30 or so Luther associates will stay on the job into February to breakdown fixtures and perform other duties to shutter the building. Those who do not find other positions with nearby Walmarts or Sam’s Clubs will be paid for sixty days. Those who’ve been with the company more than a year are eligible for an additional severance package.
Another priority, said Hatfield, is taking care of pharmacy customers. She said customers will be contacted and asked where their records should be sent – to the nearest Walmart or Sam’s or, she said, “we will happily accommodate” customers who want to transfer their prescriptions away from Walmart.
Hatfield said her company is also very concerned about local hunger and Walmart is prepared to make a $3,000 donation to a local food bank serving the community. Other opportunities through the Walmart Foundation might be possible … but later.
Other than that, she said the soon-to-be-empty store and gas station, owned by Walmart, will be put up for sale or lease.
The Town of Luther sold the three-acre property to Walmart in December 2014, for $160,000, but the value of the improved property is not available from the Oklahoma County Assessor. The site displaced the town’s little league football field, a move that the town board considered a sacrifice for the chance to bring sales tax revenue and a grocery store with a pharmacy, the only pharmacy in town, to a struggling town.
The Town reported receiving about $80,000 in sales tax revenue from Walmart since the store opened in mid-May 2015. Of the 7.5% sales tax charged to consumers, the town gets three percent, the state gets the rest of the sales taxes. According to our figures, that’s somewhere around $300,000 into the cash registers (including the self-serve ones) a month. Was it enough for Walmart? Did that pay the employees and the light bill and clear all of the rest of the costs of doing business, and earn a profit? They won’t say whether our store was successful enough. No matter. Our store was part of a risk the company took on the new “Express” store model. Walmart is abandoning the whole Express foray to build more Supercenters and improve online sales. It’s about a bottom line for the shareholders.
Town leaders and residents armed with some decent sales figures have been making calls and making inquiries; looking for another retailer. Meantime, some residents have a new resolve to support our local stores in Luther (after we stock up on sale items at Walmart – whether we want to or not).