By Feb. 4, Juneau’s Walmart will be closed. By the end of the following week — once all of the remaining merchandise has been removed and the last employee has punched his or her card — as many as 180 Juneauites could be without jobs.
Juneau’s Walmart, which has been open since 2007, is among 154 stores in the U.S. being “pruned,” from the corporate tree, according to Walmart spokesperson Delia Garcia.
“This type of exercise is something that is common practice in retail, and it’s necessary to maintain the health of the business,” she said.
According to Garcia, Juneau’s Walmart is being closed because it didn’t fit into the company’s long-term vision.
“The best way to look at this is to zoom out and look at it from the a business perspective,” she said.
The stores being shuttered, 269 total across the globe, account for a fraction of the company’s 11,000 stores worldwide and less than 1 percent of its global revenue, the Associated Press reported.
The closures will affect 10,000 U.S. workers and another 6,000 international employees.
Garcia said that Walmart is trying to “identify transfer opportunities” for its employees, but transferring to another store is not as easy in Southeast Alaska as it may be in other part of the country. Once Walmart has closed, each employee who hasn’t transferred to a different store will be given 60 days of pay. At the end of that period, any eligible employee, part time or full time, who still hasn’t transferred will be given severance pay — one week for every year of employment.
The announcement comes three months after its CEO Doug McMillon told investors the world’s largest retailer would review its store fleet amid increasing competition from all fronts, including from online rival Amazon.com.
Garcia said that despite the closures, Walmart is “actually still in a growth phase” and plans to open 200–240 new stores in the next year. None of these, however, will be in Juneau, which is upsetting to several local shoppers.
“I don’t think it’s good for Juneau,” said Susan Dolan, while shopping in Walmart Friday afternoon. “There’s not a lot of places to shop here already, and there are a lot of jobs here.”
Deeann Hanson, a Walmart regular, said that the decision to close Juneau’s store is shocking.
“I don’t know what this is going to do to Juneau,” she said. “This blows me away.”
In the U.S., most of the 154 stores being closed are considered are Walmart Express stores, which were launched as a test program in 2011. The remaining 115 locations to close are spread throughout Latin America.