Nearly eight months after Wal-Mart Stores moved to shutter more than 100 Express stores scattered across rural America, Dollar General has said it purchased 41 of the empty stores – including two stores in Arkansas.
Dollar General said Wednesday (July 27) it plans to relocate 40 existing stores into the former Walmart locations by October. One of the sites purchased, Coal Hill, Ark., is a new market for Dollar General, the company noted.
Aside from Coal Hill, the other Arkansas location is Mulberry. Terms of the Dollar General deal with Walmart were not disclosed.
“Dollar General is excited to add these locations to our existing store base. We look forward to the opportunity to better serve our customers in these communities by continuing to provide the convenience and value they expect from Dollar General,” said Todd Vasos, Dollar General’s CEO.
Communities served by the newly-relocated stores will enjoy a new “DG16” layout with additional sales floor square feet, complete with expanded offerings such as fresh meat and produce, all designed to make shopping easier for customers. Dollar General also intends to operate the fueling stations in 37 of the locations. The acquired locations are predominantly located across the South and Southeast with sites located as far north as Tennessee as as far west as Kansas.
Arkansas stores left out of the trade are former Express stores in Decatur and Damascus. This is second announced purchase of shuttered Express stores in recent weeks. Springdale-based Harps Grocery recently purchased nine of the Walmart Express stores in western Arkansas and southwest Missouri. Harps told Talk Business & Politics that the Decatur store was not part of the block of the stores it bid on and purchased, despite being located between stores in Gentry and Gravette which Harps did acquire.
The sale to Dollar General is somewhat ironic given that Walmart built the smaller Express format as way to better compete with Dollar General in rural markets. The retail giant had hoped to tether the small rural stores to nearby supercenters for easier replenishment. But that task proved to be disruptive to the supercenters which are the retailer’s cash cow. Despite solid traffic in the Express stores, the struggle of keeping them adequately stocked became an issue.
A complete management change in 2015, especially with Greg Foran named CEO of Walmart U.S., began to spell the end of the Express experiment. Foran replaced Bill Simon who first introduced the Express Stores. Walmart said in January it would continue to focus on improving customer experiences in supercenters and investing heavily in the larger grocery format Neighborhood Market. Walmart also admitted that in some of the markets where they put the Express Format, a Neighborhood Market would have likely made more sense.
The other stores involved in the Dollar General acquisition from Walmart include: