Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Is Wal-Mart the Victim in Rexburg?

One of our local news stations seems to believe that Wal-Mart's current remodeling of its non-Supercenter in Rexburg indicates that sinister forces are at work in the city keeping the retailing giant from bringing a long-rumored Supercenter to town.

If names were reversed and Wal-Mart were the heavy in this situation, I might believe the tale. But told in reverse, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

First of all, Albertsons isn't Albertsons anymore. The once Idaho-based company was partitioned and sold, with Minnesota-based Super-Valu taking on most of the company's stores, certainly those in Idaho. At the time -- and not because of Wal-Mart -- the new owners shuttered three underperforming stores in the area, one in Idaho Falls, one in Shelley and the other in Blackfoot. The Shelley store was bought by Rexburg-based Broulim's; the other two were closed and the buildings are still vacant. These are just casualties of the highly-competitive grocery-merchandising war that Wal-Mart is winning and Albertsons is losing, due to Albertsons generally higher prices.

Anyway, Rexburgers have long wondered why Wal-Mart has not graced the area with a Supercenter. When I worked for the local, and then the regional papers, every year I had to do a Wal-Mart Supercenter rumor story. The remodeling of the current Wal-Mart, evidently, has spun up residents to a new Supercenter frenzy.

It's clear that if Wal-Mart were planning a Supercenter for Rexburg that they would not be remodeling the current store. Enter the intrepid news reporter, who first descended upon City Hall to find a culprit. Finding none there, he immediately swoops upon Albertsons -- which is only three doors down from Wal-Mart to find the evil-doer. Getting no answer to his ludicrous question of whether Albertsons has an agreement that restricts the local Wal-Mart to only a few aisles of food, he opts to "let the readers decide" whether such an agreement exists.

To which I have to say: Hahahahahahahahaha. Ha ha ha. Ha ha. And ha.

The reporter doesn't mention in his report whether he contacted Wal-Mart corporate HQ, who would likely laugh even harder at his question than I do.

I have nothing against Wal-Mart. However, if a retail behemoth were to open in Rexburg, I'd choose WinCo over Wal-Mart, as WinCo's prices are better. It's also a local behemoth, based in Boise, not Bentonville. But WinCo won't consider Rexburg until the area hits a population of 80,000, which isn't going to happen any time soon. Like many other locals, I wonder as well why Wal-Mart hasn't built a Supercenter in Rexburg, but I hardly believe it's because Albertsons, or anyone else for that matter, is putting the hurtin' on them.

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