A New Walmart in Chicago's West Loop
As reported by UrbanTurf and the Chicago Tribune yesterday, Walmart has finally opened its doors at the Presidential Towers location in Chicago’s West Loop. This smaller market version of a typical Walmart Supercenter is approximately 27,000 square feet and a little less than one quarter the size of the average Walmart store. Coincidentally, I happened to be in the West Loop yesterday morning for an appointment, so I stopped inside to see what all the fuss is about. Now, I certainly understand the “mom and pop” argument and the fear that such big box retailers can potentially endanger smaller, locally run businesses. But on the other hand, as I was in the Walmart Neighborhood Market scanning all the isles, I couldn’t help but notice that the place was buzzing with shoppers and the prices were INCREDIBLY low. One particular item that caught my eye was a 12 inch deli sub sandwich for only $2.99! But I won’t bore you with a shopping list of items I saw with the best prices—this isn’t The Price is Right. My point is that despite everyone’s resistance to support Walmart opening up stores in Chicago’s downtown neighborhoods, perhaps we should look at the bright side and realize that saving a few bucks on a deli sandwich or some fresh produce is a good thing for a lot of people right now. Times are tough and who am I to tell people where to shop or how to save or spend their money? And let’s not forget that all of the Walmart stores which are planned to open up over the next 2 years will create approximately 10,000 new jobs, according to UrbanTurf. With the unemployment rate still high and not dropping at the rate many of us would like, I don’t necessarily see these store openings as a bad thing. You could argue that as these stores open, more locally owned stores will close; which may or may not balance out the unemployment factor. However, I could counter that with the idea that larger stores, such as Walmart, offer more job opportunities than a smaller, independently owned store. I’ve seen both sides to the argument. There’s the study conducted by Loyola University, highlighted in the New York Daily News this past May, which contradicts the theory that big-box retailers bring more jobs to a community and more jobs are actually lost as smaller retail stores continue to close due to the big-box presence. But then there’s the article from Bloomberg Business Week, by Joy Katz, that suggests big-box retailers actually drive the local economy. In the example she gave, a gigantic big-box home improvement store opens in Small Town U.S.A. She goes on to mention that “yes, nearby independent hardware stores will lose a big chunk of business and may ultimately sink.” But she also argues, while a small, independently owned hardware store may go out of business, the small independent gas station down the street now has a line of cars from people driving further distances to the big box retailer, the local café is jammed with lunch-goers finishing or beginning a day of shopping and a few hundred people now move into the neighborhood-some of whom may even start their own small businesses. Her point is quite clear: big box retailers are community mainstays and drive future development. It’s the same idea that EVERY shopping center in the country operates under: secure a stable, big-box anchor store that drives patrons to the area and business to that shopping outlet. Next, fill in the smaller stores with establishments that don’t compete with the anchor store and shoppers can knock out all their shopping needs by going to several stores all in that one shopping center. In other words, the new Walmart may hurt some local business in the West Loop; but long term, it will essentially be the anchor store around Clinton and Madison Street that will drive future development, ultimately stabilizing this section of the West Loop. Whether you agree or disagree with me is up to you. But don’t hold it against me when I’m in the West Loop and opt to stop into Walmart for my $2.99 sandwich around lunchtime. Savings or no savings-it’s actually pretty tasty.
Ted Guarnero, REALTOR® is a full-time real estate agent with over 1000 homes sold and $400 million in sales. Working with Compass real estate offering professional and effective real estate services to help you succeed in the local real estate market. Visit www.seeChicagorealestate.com for information on downtown Chicago real estate and to get in touch with an expert in the Chicago real estate market. Before you hire your next Realtor call Ted Guarnero 855-See-Chicago, it's on the House !