By Jeremy Bloom
For years, Walmart’s business plan has been simple: Come into small towns (often with tax breaks and subsidies), out-compete local businesses and drive them into the ground. But with profits falling, they’re now shutting down 269 stores and abandoning those communities – in many cases, leaving them with no grocery store and no pharmacy.
Three recent examples show just how bad Walmart is.
- Walmart drove the Town’n Country grocery in Oriental, NC out of business. And now Walmart is pulling out, leaving the community with nowhere to shop.
- In Godley, Texas, the only other grocery store – a Brookshire Brothers – shut down within months of Walmart opening.
- In Merkel, Texas, the Lawrence Brothers store closed two months ago. Now that Walmart is closing, though, they may manage to re-open.
“In towns impacted by store closures, we have had hundreds of conversations with elected officials and community leaders to discuss relevant issues and we are working with communities on how we can be helpful,” Walmart spokesman Brian Nick says. But there’s not many ways they CAN be helpful – not after destroying mom and pop businesses that used to thrive on Main Streets.
The Town’n Country in Oriental was a family-owned business that had served the community for 44 years. According to Renee Ireland Smith, their sales dropped 30% within months of Walmart’s opening in May of 2014. She said whenever her store cut prices, Walmart would go even lower. The family put its own money into the effort, but Walmart could easily out-cut them – the giant corporation could afford to lose millions in the fight.
Walmart won – by the end of the year, the Smith family threw in the towel and shuttered their store. But barely a year later, Walmart suddenly decided their store wasn’t profitable enough. Maybe they’re finally learning that you have to leave communities with jobs and businesses if you want to have customers who can afford to shop at your stores.
There’s an old Jewish joke about a farmer who decides he’s going to save money by training his cows to eat less and less. Things were going great, and he was thrilled that he’d reached the point where he had the cows eating practically nothing at all – when the cows died.
That’s the Walmart business model for US communities. And we’re finally reaching the end of the story.
“They ruined our lives,” said Smith. “They came in here with their experiment and ruined us.”