Friday, July 3, 2015

Walmart Pulls The Plug on Puny Prototype .

Happier times at the Walmart on Campus at Georgia Tech 
Mega retailer shuttering "campus" store at Georgia Tech.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart has decided to close its nearly two year old "Walmart on Campus" test store at Georgia Tech.  The store, dubbed "world's tiniest Walmart," was about 2,500 square feet and opened in August, 2013 on 5th Street at Technology Square.  The store's last day of business is today, July 3rd.  

The store was stocked with college essentials like writing implements, printers and paper as well cold cuts, snacks, ice cream and other food items.  The store also had a full service pharmacy with prescriptions (not directed elsewhere) being transferred automatically to the Walmart Supercenter at The District at Howell Mill.   

When it opened, the Georgia Tech location was the third of such "Campus" locations to open with the others being at the campuses of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville (3,300 square feet) and the second at Arizona State University (5,093 square feet.)  

An approximately 3,700 square foot store that opened near the University of Missouri in early 2014 was first announced as a "Campus" location but opened under the "Walmart Express" banner. A store representative indicated to me that the store will soon become a "Walmart Neighborhood Market." 

A 4,100 square foot store "Campus" store opened this past April at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, and will reportedly remain a "Campus" store for now.  

I spoke with a Walmart representative who said of the possible closure of any other Campus locations "no way, that store (Fayetteville) makes way too much profit for them to close."  I spoke with a store employee at the U of A store in Tempe who said her store is not closing either.  

Walmart reportedly runs each store with what one might call a skeleton crew of about ten employees.  The store is reportedly only staffed by a single employee during "off peak" hours of basically any time other than "noon-3pm."

A press release distributed by Georgia Tech gave no explanation for the closure in Atlanta. A facebook page specific to the Georgia Tech store has already been deleted.  A brief search of the interwebs returns several interesting theories from REDDIT users.  

"The side of Tech Square that Georgia Tech owns is (sort of) required to accept BuzzCard. If you don't accept BuzzFunds, Tech will raise the rent on the property until you accept BuzzFunds or leave. You either die a hero or live long enough to accept BuzzFunds."

"Yeah, apparently Walmart couldn't accept buzz funds because of some deal with Visa."

"What I heard is that the lease was up, and Wal-Mart wanted to buy the property from Tech, who refused. So Wal-Mart just left."

"I heard Walmart came under some new management for this region and the new guys just don't like the idea of a convenience store Walmart. Considering this was an experiment anyway they basically decided to shut it down."

Walmart has been aggressively expanding its "Walmart Neighborhood Market" concept in Georgia with about a dozen locations either recently open or in the works.  Last fall, the company announced it would rebrand their existing network of twenty-one "Walmart Express" stores under the "Walmart Neighborhood Market" moniker.

A roughly 12,000 square foot Walmart Express opened late last year in Ashburn, Georgia but was immediately rebranded under the Neighborhood Market banner.  Ashburn is located in Turner county, south of the city of Atlanta, between Cordele and Tifton.  The Ashburn store was the only "Express" store to exist in Georgia.  

The Express stores averaged 15,000 square feet, while the typical Neighborhood Market store is about 40,000 square feet.  By comparison, most fullsize Walmart stores are well in excess of 100,000 square feet.   


Anonymous said...

Dammit! I loved this little store. It was awesome to be able to get basics and essentials in this area at Walmart's low prices. My guess is that the pharmacy business didn't pan out like they were thinking it would. That part of the store never looked too busy, and since the margins on those products must be greater than on gum and frozen pizza, maybe it didn't make sense to stay open. Too bad.

Anonymous said...

That's too bad. There's one at Delta and it's an amazing convenience.

jeff a. taylor said...

Would really like to hear from GaTech officials on the Buzz Card thing. I'm real certain it is in the charter of a public university to use currency arbitrage as part of its ongoing operations.