An official with Springdale-based Harps Foods said Wednesday (June 8) the company is working with Wal-Mart Stores to buy six of the recently closed Walmart Express formats in Benton, Washington, Crawford, Scott and Franklin counties in Arkansas.
Three more locations in southwest Missouri —Anderson, Noel and Seligman — are also part of the deal for an undisclosed amount.
Max Van Hoose, vice president of store planning for Harps, said the real estate deal is expected to close in the next two weeks. After the deal closes, Van Hoose said Harps management will give more details about its plans for the locations.
In Arkansas, the locations sought by Harps are in Gravette, Gentry, Prairie Grove, Cedarville, Mansfield, and Charleston. Shuttered Express stores in Arkansas not in the deal are in Coal Hill, Damascus, Decatur and Mulberry.
Harps has store expansions and remodels underway in Lincoln and Green Forest which will be completed next year. The company is also working on new store projects in Gentry, Vilonia and Pocahontas, Ark., as well as De Soto, Kan. The new store projects are slated for completion later this year.
Harps is a 100% employee-owned company and operates 79 stores in northern and central Arkansas, southern Missouri and eastern Oklahoma.
In all, Walmart shuttered 102 of its smallest Express formats in late January saying it no longer fit the retail giant’s expansion plans. Each store is around 10,000 square feet and employed about 60. The January closure was part of a broader move by Wal-Mart to close underperforming operations. While the U.S. store closure involves 23 Neighborhood Markets, 12 Supercenters, seven stores in Puerto Rico, six discount centers, and four Sam’s Clubs, the brunt of the impact for small communities was the loss of 102 Walmart Express stores, which were an experiment harking back to 2011.
“The Express stores seemed like a great way to recapture fill-in business lost to Dollar stores, etc. but clearly the format wasn’t pulling its own weight. Walmart talks about their sharpened focus on stores and this is clearly a result of that initiative and holding stores more accountable in the internet age,” Jason Long, CEO of Shift Marketing Group in St.Louis, said at the time.