Residents, and pets, will miss Walmart

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CLINTON — As the Clinton Walmart store sells down stock and employees prepare for transfers to other stores or employment elsewhere, residents’ love / hate relationship with the giant retailer still has people wondering what Clinton will do without a Walmart in town.

Local retailers, some locally owned, some part of large chains, likely will fill some of the void left by the planned closing of the Clinton Walmart.  But while some residents still blame Walmart for the closure of some businesses on the square, they also know it’s a major hit to local shopping.

Walmart’s philanthropic activities also will be missed in the area.

Chairman of the county board’s public safety committee, Cris Rogers, knows that keeping the animal shelter stocked with supplies will now be something of a scramble.  Rogers praised the management of Clinton Walmart for their generosity over the years.

Walmart donated virtually all of the dog and cat food used at the animal shelter from damaged containers the store could not sell.  The store donated other supplies as well.  During the recent county board meeting, Rogers said it would be a challenge to make up those lost donations.

Walmart Foundation also has contributed monetarily to the community over the Clinton store’s 35-year history.

Store employees, some who started with Walmart when the Clinton store opened in 1983, are now deciding their futures, too.  

Many of those associates have been around to witness the store’s many remodels over the years as Walmart changed its style.

Some will be able to transfer to other area Walmarts; others have plans to seek employment elsewhere.

Employees who remain will work through July 27 and will be paid through the end of August.

When Walmart corporate representatives announced last week the store would close on July 20, city officials and the local chamber expressed their regret at the company’s decision.

“This will be a sorely missed long-term business relationship that hits our community very hard,” a statement from the city read.  “Our prayers and hearts are with the employees that will have to make tough decisions in the days ahead.  We will proceed to move forward to find another long-term economic development prospect to fit our community as we are losing a true asset.”

Although Walmart is the world’s largest retailer, it has not been immune to the changing retailing landscape. 

A Walmart of similar size and number of employees, which opened in 1982 in Edna, Texas, also will close on July 20.  The local Jackson County, Texas newspaper reported the reactions to the closure by local residents was much the same as in Clinton.

A Walmart in Corning, Ark. also will close July 20.

The stores slated for closure all opened about the same time and are about the same size, and the announcement of those closures also came on Wednesday.

While the Clinton Walmart closure has fueled a number of theories about why the company is closing the store, Walmart announced in January its plans for 2018, which includes the closure of 63 stores in the U.S.  

In 2017, Walmart closed 19 stores; in 2016 the company shuttered 269 stores, including the Walmart Express stores.

Its 2018 plan includes the closure of some stores and the planned opening of 90 stores, some of which eliminate the need for cashiers.  Walmart also has, in some instances, increased employee compensation.

“With all the change happening in retail today, it is more important than ever to make sure we are meeting customers’ evolving needs,” Anne Hatfield, Walmart corporate communications director told the Clinton Journal late last week.  “These are never easy decisions, but actively managing our portfolio is essential to maintaining a healthy business and keeping current with how customers want to shop today. This is something our leadership has discussed very openly.”

The DeWitt County Development Council (DCDC) is currently active in seeking a business to fill the Walmart site.