I was there (along with several hundred others, including local dignitaries, Chamber folks and some very patient customers) at the Wal-Mart Supercenter grand opening this morning. Tim Sirois and his staff have done a tremendous job in preparing the store for shoppers, and this morning’s ribbon-cutting had some very nice touches.
I must admit I’m not a huge Wal-Mart fan. It has more to do with the company’s marketing practices than anything else (they’re not big fans of newspaper advertising, but in full disclosure they are placing ads and preprints with us). But you can’t argue with the success of Sam Walton and his legacy. I remember heated discussions taking place when the “original” Wal-Mart was planned for Sanford nearly 20 years ago. Retail sales in Lee County took a huge dip when the Aberdeen Wal-Mart opened south of Sanford in Moore County, and many officials were looking to recoup sales tax revenues; others predicted doom and gloom for small “mom and pop” retailers, particularly the clothing stores along and near Steele Street in downtown.
But the face of retailing is always changing, and today’s opening of the Supercenter is a far cry from what any of us could have imagined 15 or 20 years ago. At almost 200,000 square feet, the store is the largest Wal-Mart in North Carolina.
In today’s Herald, Jon Owens and Brooke Wolfe take readers on a guided tour through the new store. There’s also a fascinating “info box” on Page 6A you’ll want to check out. And coming tomorrow, we’ll feature a story about a Wal-Mart competitor who talks about what it’s like going head-to-head with the behemoth.