Friday, August 7, 2015

Walmart on Campus to Reopen?

The closure of the Walmart on Campus at Georgia Tech came as a surprise to many in the local community.  While you may not like Walmart as a company, there is no denying their Walmart on Campus or "micro store" as it was known, on 5th Street at Tech Square, filled a need in the area. The store, a mere 2,500 square feet, had a full service pharmacy as well as select dry goods, frozen foods and assorted other commonly purchased items.  The store open in time for fall semester 2013 and closed early last month.  At the time of the closure no reason was provided.  Theories were plentiful as to why the store closed, as it seemed it had been doing well.

I visited the store on its last day and was told by a store manager that Walmart had decided not to renew their lease. She seemed to indicate that she, too, was surprised the store had closed, but said the store was too small to meet the demands of customers.  She hinted at the possibility of new, larger store opening in the area.  

I contacted Walmart media relations regarding any possible relocation, and after a month,  two emails and three calls, I received a response from William C. Wertz "Director of Communications - East Public Affairs & Government Relations."

 “We are always looking for new ways to better serve our customers, and that includes providing students, faculty, and the surrounding neighborhoods with convenient access to quality and affordable merchandise tailored to their needs. We have been pleased with the customer response we have received from our Georgia Tech campus store, but for various business reasons we have made the decision not to renew our lease in this location. We will continue to serve students and the Georgia Tech community with our nearby Supercenters in the area.”

Not entirely satisfied with that response,  I said  "I was told at the time that the store closed that you (Walmart) were actively looking to open in a larger space nearby to serve the local community.  I was made to believe this might be smaller than a marketplace store but larger than a campus location. While I understand that lease negotiations must be kept private, is that at least something that is being looked at?"

I was subsequently furnished this response  

"To date we haven’t announced any plans for a store of any size in the Georgia Tech area, but I can tell you that we are always looking for new locations where we can better serve our customers and offer them the affordable prices we know matter so much."

It seems logical that if the company was pleased with the traffic the store received, they would be eager to replace the store.  While Mr. Wertz was careful not to explicitly say so, I'd bet Walmart is actively looking for 4,000-5,000 square feet in the area.  

There are a number of off campus high-rise apartments coming online in the next year or so and perhaps a location off campus, but nearby would be best.  

Where would you like to see a Walmart on Campus reopen? Do you think the previous location was too small?  How big should the new location be to meet your needs but not be too overwhelming?  

Please share your thoughts below.  


Anonymous said...

I'm gonna give you a friendly comment. I believe most people who read your blog are looking for news about restaurants and retail. I believe most people who come here are not so interested in your personal opinion (which is usually negative) or your cynicism expressed through your chronic overuse of quotation marks.

Restaurant news is fun, interesting and relevant. Attitude, not so much.

Thank you for your hard work.

A Reader

Unknown said...

@Anonymous. What the hell are you talking about. I don't see any cynicism or negativity in this post. Are where is the overuse of quotation marks? "microcenter"?

Anonymous said...

I do not see the negativity here. I agree with "Unknown." There's just a copious amount of detail.

Anonymous said...

The friendly comments I posted were general comments reflecting a pattern, not tied just to the Walmart article. I think it is admirable that he chose to publish my comments. He certainly could have ignored them.

However, "While you may not like Walmart as a company..." adds nothing useful to the information provided. In fact, isn't it true that every articled could open with "While you may not like x, y, or z as a company..."

As for quotation marks, they are intended to indicate a direct quote. In Toneto, too often quotes are used for passive aggressive disapproval.

Sure, it's a little silly for a business that is obviously closed and dead to post a sign "Closed For Remodel." But what can we expect? Should they post a document admitting they did insufficient market research; hod poor quality food and/or service; they ignored the warnings from Toneto; their prices were too high?

A Reader

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous, I do not see anything """friendly""" about your comment. I enjoy the detail and the author's opinions and commentary even though I don't always agree with them.

Anonymous said...

"A Reader" - this is a blog and the "personal comments" of the "original poster" aka "the blogger" reflect that. A Blog is "typically" peppered with "opinions" of the "blogger". Your "friendly" comments "might" be more appropriate for the "Atlanta Journal- Constitution" and their "politically correct" style of "journalism".

"Tomorrow's News Today" - I certainly hope your assumptions are right about a new and bigger space for Walmart on Campus at Tech. There is definitely a "need" for this concept to continue at GT.

Thank You!

A "Friendly" Reader

Anonymous said...

The fewer Walmarts in the world, the better. But I did think it was a clever idea, and perfectly situated. Maybe it was a corporate decision to give up on the concept. Jack Spade just closed all of their stores. But that doesn't mean every location was underperforming.

-X- said...

I didn't get a chance to stop in at the store but if it was doing well, it seems that Wal-Mart could've opened a second store somewhere else, perhaps at another edge of campus.

Anonymous said...

From what I saw in the press at the time, as well as from discussions with employees, the issue was that they couldn't support the influx of new customers the the opening of the new tower residence (due in August) would bring.

They had no onsite storage so literally everything they sold had to be spot delivered from one of the other stores. They had tried to lease a restaurant next door for more storage, but the landlord & GA Tech blocked that, fearing they were trying to grow into a 'traditional' Walmart.

In the end, that space is simply too small to be a full-service retail outlet. It was an interesting experiment, but not one that was likely to succeed.