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Walmart shelves nearly empty already

BE city officials outline their attempts to get store to stay open

September 24, 2017
Katie Mullaly - Register Staff Writer , Faribault County Register

With residents in Blue Earth still trying to reach the corporate Walmart offices to have them reconsider the closing of the local store, Walmart continues to prepare for its permanent closure on Oct. 3.

While the Blue Earth Walmart has begun presenting their regularly priced items at discount prices, shelves continue to grow thin as the store prepares to close, leaving 60 to 80 Blue Earth area residents without jobs.

In a letter sent to the Blue Earth Public, city administrator Tim Ibisch stated he and Blue Earth's mayor, Rick Scholtes are doing everything they can to assist those Walmart employees.

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The shelves at the Walmart in Blue Earth emptied out fast after the store started to advertise everything at 25 percent off regular prices. The store is still slated to close permanently on Oct. 3, despite some efforts by Blue Earth city officials to try and keep it open.

"A great deal of interest both positive and negative has been expressed to me and via social media. Losing a business in town is always difficult and this one is particularly so because of the nature and scope of its impact," reads Ibisch's letter. "Most especially of concern is the impact to the employees, many of whom reside in our community. We will do all that we can to assist these employees during this troubling time."

The letter continued on stating that Ibisch and Scholtes felt it was important to discuss the closing with Walmart directly.

"We wanted to know if there was anything we could do as a city to change their mind. We contacted Walmart's corporate office and were able to discuss the situation with Carissa Sprague, the senior vice president for north-central operations," said Ibisch's letter.

"She is tasked with observing the locations in our region. We reminded her of Walmart's stated goal, that is to support local and rural communities, and reiterated our concerns with the closure of this business," read the letter. "She noted that the location had been under a spotlight for three years and that the return on investment from this site simply does not exist at the level that the corporate office needs."

Ibisch's letter continues, stating Sprague noted that while the staff did a good job and the location was always neat and tidy, the total numbers of customers simply was not sufficient and the store was not performing financially.

"The goal of Walmart is that these stores can be run as if they are standalones and she (Sprague) noted that this one was not growing. We mentioned land acquisition and asked if building a superstore could help," said Ibisch's letter. "We also discussed tax incentives and abatement opportunities. Ms. Sprague felt that with the other nearby locations Fairmont, Mankato, and Albert Lea, that it simply was not feasible to support another Super Walmart."

Ibisch shared with Sprague, the positive things that are going on in the Blue Earth community including the housing development proposal, active street reconstructions, the new sewer plant, and other positives.

"She thanked us for the update and noted that this closure was not a reflection on the city, rather a corporate financial decision," states Ibisch's letter.

So why now and not three years ago when Walmart was under the spotlight? The simple convenience of the lease being up was the corporation's response to the timeline of the store's closing.

"She mentioned that the lease expires at the end of January and that Walmart would be coordinating with the landlord in order to facilitate the orderly turnover to another tenant," says Ibisch's letter. "The mayor and I agree that getting a new tenant in as soon as possible will be very beneficial for the community and I believe the Blue Earth City Council will agree with that assessment."

Currently, store patrons have seen two things at the Walmart store in Blue Earth: one thing that's noticeable is a 25 percent markdown of almost everything throughout the store, and the second thing patrons see at Walmart? Empty shelves.

"We have been out of stock of a lot of our items since the news came out," said one Walmart associate. "And that probably won't change. It's very eerie to see the store emptying out."

Attempts to talk to Walmart management directly were made by the Faribault County Register but did not receive a reply.

Though the Walmart corporation may be wrapping up in Blue Earth, Blue Earth is still working diligently to close the gap Walmart has created.

"We will all do everything we can to aid in the rapid reuse of the Walmart property. We will spare no effort in keeping our community clean, safe, and a proper place to do business," were the closing words of Ibisch's letter to the citizens of Blue Earth.

 
 

 

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