I found this while doing the usual click through yesterday and it’s a heartbreaking read: What happened when Walmart left. This is the bitter aftermath of what happens when a store closes. There are jobs lost. There is a hole left in a community, a hole so large that nothing seems to be able to fill it. Those little mom and pop stores that were put out of business by Walmart? They and their services will never be seen again. The main grocer is gone, leaving the community with a lack of fresh food.
That’s not even touching on the loss of tax revenue. Schools, along with other communally funded services, will suffer. But to the home office, that doesn’t matter. Case in point:
I asked Walmart why it quit McDowell County. A spokeswoman said that closing a store was never easy, but it was “a necessary part of keeping a business healthy and positioned for future growth”. A number of factors had driven this particular decision, she said, including “financial performance as well as strategic alignment with long-term plans”.
The company had worked with all the employees who had lost their jobs to find them suitable transfers or give them severance pay. “We look forward to continuing to serve our Kimball area customers when they visit our stores in Bluefield, Princeton and MacArthur,” she said, (without referencing the hour’s drive.)
Ah, corporate speak. Gotta love that garbage. Here’s the thing: I could see this coming a number of years ago.
I worked for Walmart as a cashier for thirteen years. Every year, during our “Grassroots” meetings–eventually given a new moniker during the last few years of my tenure–our store manager would often tout the fact that Walmart was opening so many new stores. Growth! We had lots of growth! So many other retailers didn’t have that sort of growth! Weren’t we lucky, to be employed by such a large company with ever so much growth?
There’s only one problem with this and I think you might be able to see it. You can only inflate a balloon so much and then it pops. Walmart hadn’t quite reached that tipping point, but I could see it coming. I knew it was coming. I can remember telling some of my coworkers that there was going to be a point where we wouldn’t be able to open new stores. I even suggested that corporate might even be forced to close under-performing ones.
They weren’t pleasant thoughts but they were there in the back of my mind. I knew it would happen. It was just a matter of time. So when Walmart announced it was closing stores last year, it didn’t shock me in the least. I knew it would be happening. I still felt horrible for the associates, though.
As for the Waltons? Well…
“The Walton family are billionaires,” she said (also no exaggeration – their collective worth is put at about $150bn). “They developed a system that just made us worse off, and then they took even that away from us.”
The Waltons do not care. They never really did. All their folksy “gee gosh darn, we’uns jus’ like yew” commercials can’t change that fact. The real fact of the matter is that all the Waltons care about is the money. It’s the bottom line that matters to them, not the associates, not the communities in which they place their stores, not the people who shop there. None of that matters. It always has been and always will be about the amount of profit that Walmart can get from its stores. I learned that very quickly and it’s something I haven’t forgotten.
It’s sad that this poor town had to learn that very same lesson, in a much harsher way.