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Last week, the Wall Street Journal featured a story – commented upon by MNB and its community of users – about vacant real estate controlled by Wal-Mart.

“While big retailers can afford to write off or absorb the cost of closed stores and their ongoing leases, communities are often stuck with a different kind of bill,” the WSJ reported. “They complain that the empty buildings are eyesores that can boost crime and vandalism and bring down property values. And where darkened stores anchor strip malls, they can depress sales of remaining retailers.

“While the stores' owners typically continue to pay property taxes on the vacant properties -- that is, if they remain in business -- the buildings no longer generate jobs or lucrative sales-tax dollars for state and local governments.”

And compounding the problem is the fact that Wal-Mart often will prevent these locations from being leased to competitors, which in many cases can dramatically reduce the potential pool of lessees. The paper cites as an example a 69,000 square foot former Wal-Mart in La Junta, Colorado, which has been vacant since 2000…and Wal-Mart holds the lease until 2017.

Yesterday, Sarah Clark, Wal-Mart’s director of corporate communications, sent a letter to the WSJ defending the company:

    “The Sept. 15 Marketplace article ‘Wal-Mart's Surge Leaves Dead Stores Behind’ failed to emphasize that despite Wal-Mart's enormous growth, our inventory of vacant space is on the decline. In fact, the number of vacant stores will decline 22% this year from two years ago. And we often lease or sell space to competitors, including Sears, Toys 'R' Us, Best Buy, Belks, Bed Bath & Beyond and Big Lots.

    “We work hard to find re-uses for our properties, and our efforts are paying off. Last year, we set a record by leasing or selling more than 15 million square feet for re-use -- the equivalent of 15 regional malls. This year, we will set a new record. Our efforts with local officials to find alternative uses -- from call centers to medical centers to car dealerships to courtrooms -- have resulted in the creation of more than 12,000 jobs. Our marketing efforts are thorough and professional. We know we have a responsibility to our communities to do all this, and we are making progress.”
KC's View:
And yet, the WSJ seems to feel that there are communities out there that feel disenchanted with the Bentonville Behemoth.