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Wednesday, 28 February 2007 00:00

This time, neighbors want Wal-Mart’s drawing power

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With Wal-Mart’s future in Franklin in limbo, business owners near the existing big-box store continue to worry they’ll lose the economic engine that drives their bottom lines.

 

Five weeks ago, the retailer put the brakes on plans to move from Holly Springs Plaza to a site off Highlands Road. The expansion to a supercenter would have increased Wal-Mart Stores’ footprint in Macon County from 93,000 square feet to up to 200,000 square feet.

Store managers and owners in Holly Springs admit that it’s an odd marriage, but they say the reputed destroyer of small businesses is actually the reason for their success.

“If they left, it would cut down on our foot traffic,” said Debbie Sanders, manager of Sally Beauty Supply, a store that provides products to hair salons. “I’d love to see a supercenter in Franklin, but business-wise, it wouldn’t do us much good.”

 

Benefactor or foe?

That, Wal-Mart spokesperson Tara Stewart said, is true nationwide at shopping centers just like Holly Springs Plaza. Wal-Mart moves in, and on the giant retailer’s heels come restaurants and other businesses.

“McDonald’s and other restaurants, those are franchises and are local businesses, too,” she said. “They come up around Wal-Mart and do very well.”

Stewart did not make a distinction between regular-sized stores such as the one in Holly Springs and supercenters.

The situation at Holly Springs is so critical for the 13 or so small businesses there, some are promising to leave if Wal-Mart goes and isn’t replaced by another large retailer. Many of the tenants’ leases do contain provisions allowing them to terminate their contracts in the event Wal-Mart moves out.

 

How it works

That’s the case for Dollar Tree, a store targeting an even more budget-conscious shopper than its larger neighbor.

“If Wal-Mart leaves, we get to break the lease,” said Manager Sheryl Horn. “If a big draw didn’t come in we’d move out.”

Horn believes Wal-Mart wants to build a supercenter elsewhere in Macon County to avoid having competitors around the store.

She said the current marriage works for Dollar Tree because people want one-stop shopping. Wal-Mart wants that one stop to be at its store, but local businesses also want pieces of the action.

“The way the economy is, people like to get out and do all their errands at one time,” she said. “They’ll start at the grocery store on the end and finish at Wal-Mart. But Wal-Mart wants people just to come to Wal-Mart.”

The retailer is busy opening supercenters across the nation, and has plans for one in Haywood County and another on the Cherokee Indian Reservation. There already is a supercenter in Sylva.

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