Dollar General acquires Walmart Express store in Decatur for $425,000

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 623 views 

The last of the shuttered Walmart Express formats in Northwest Arkansas in the tiny town of Decatur was snatched up by Dollar General for $425,000. The Goodlettsville, Tenn.,-based Dollar General already operates a store in Decatur and will be relocating that business to the larger former Walmart site at 154 N. Main St. by this summer, according to an announcement Wednesday (Feb. 1).

“Dollar General is excited to add this location 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 CEO.

The new location is larger by roughly 3,000 square feet and will feature fuel and fresh meat and produce which were not possible at its smaller Decatur location. This store is in addition to the 41 sites Dollar General purchased from Walmart in July 2016. At that time Dollar General acquired the Express stores in Coal Hill and Mulberry.

Dollar General said the larger store will employ about 15 and also feature a new layout which will provide a more customer-friendly format and faster checkout.

Walmart’s Express formats were aimed directly at competing against Dollar General in smaller towns. These formats were also equipped with pharmacy and fuel pumps. But the small store experiment was scrapped by Walmart in January 2016 and 102 locations were shuttered. The small store experiment failed to yield the returns of larger Neighborhood Markets and Walmart Supercenter formats.

The Walmart Express experiment began in 2011 with stores in Gravette and Prairie Grove. It was expanded in 2012 by then-Walmart U.S. President and CEO Bill Simon, whose plan was to tether these stores to supercenter for fulfillment. While the idea looked good in theory it was much harder to execute given the smallest formats had virtually no backroom space for inventory. Frequent out-of-stocks in fresh meats, dairy and products left shelves nearly bare until the next truck ran.

After expanding the formats to 102, it became apparent to Greg Foran, who replaced Simon as Walmart U.S. CEO in July 2014, that these formats were more of a distraction than opportunity, given the retailer’s cash cow remains its supercenters. Foran said shortly after taking over the U.S. business, “The supercenter, well managed and well run, is a great growth driver.”

When Walmart made the decision to close the Express formats, Harps Foods of Springdale was also waiting in the wings. Harps acquired nine of the shuttered former Walmart Express formats in June. Seven of those locations are in Arkansas, three of those in Northwest Arkansas – Gravette, Gentry and Prairie Grove. J. Max Van Hoose, vice president of store planning for Harps, said the Decatur store was not in the block of stores that Harps bid on. He said Harps bid on the entire block which included three locations in southwest Missouri. Harps also bought Express locations in Cedarville, Mansfield and Charleston.