Walmart’s decision to close its SuperCenter on Northeast Evangeline Thruway may leave a hole in that section of Lafayette, officials said.
The retail giant announced Wednesday morning it will close the store March 29 but will close the pharmacy March 15, spokeswoman Anne Hatfield said. The store employs 291 associates, according to a document filed with Louisiana Workforce Commission, and the majority of which are full time.
The decision to close the store is based on several factors, she said, including store performance. The closure is part of five across the country but the only one in Louisiana.
“The decision to close is a tough decision,” Hatfield said. “It’s a very hard decision. It comes after a very lengthy and extensive review process. Reviewing store performance is an ongoing process.”
Employees will be given the option to transfer to another store, Hatfield said, and company human resources personnel will work with each employee if they choose to stay employed by Walmart.
Walmart filed a Workforce Adjustment and Training Notification statement with the state Wednesday afternoon. Workers will be terminated effective May 10, market manager Richard Ivy said in the letter.
Shannon Ozene, who owns a small business, The Black Element, and often shops at that Walmart, said she felt the store’s days were numbered once Walmart opened its Carencro location six miles away in April 2017.
Development in upper Lafayette, she said, has happened north of Interstate 10 and skipped the city’s north side.
“You have to think about people in this area that may already have transportation issues or can’t get around as the next person,” she said. “They really depend on it. People have been going to Walmart for years for prescriptions. Those are my main concerns — the pharmacy and the people who need medications and the employees.”
Gary Wagner, Acadiana business economist with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said the loss of jobs is significant to Lafayette Parish. The news comes after seasonally adjusted data for December showed the parish gained 405 jobs, which was the biggest gain in a month since January.
“If we lose 300 jobs, that’s a pretty significant hit for the parish,” Wagner said. “Losing 300 jobs from one location almost wipes out the gains that we’ve made.”
The move will limit shopping options for residents in that area. Many residents utilized the pharmacy there.
“You’ve got more transportation problems in terms of lack of a vehicle or lack of a reliable vehicle,” Wagner said. “It’s going to limit their access to consumer goods and food. Those are also communities that have less usage of the internet than more affluent areas. If we were in an affluent area, it wouldn’t have that much of an impact.”
Customers can switch their prescriptions to the Walmart SuperCenter at 2428 W. Pinhook Road, the one in Carencro at 3810 NE Evangeline Thruway or any of the other three stores within eight miles of that location, Hatfield said.
Other pharmacies are nearby, including one inside the Super 1 Foods at 215 W. Willow St. and The Medicine Bin, 1105 W. Willow St., which has delivery service.
Hatfield couldn’t recall the last time Walmart closed a Supercenter in Louisiana but noted the company remains committed to the state. It has 124 stores and about 36,000 associates in Louisiana.
The news comes after Walmart reported $138.8 billion in revenue companywide in the last quarter of 2018, an increase of $2.5 billion in the last quarter of 2017. Total revenue for 2018 was $514.4 billion, up $14.1 billion from 2017.
“We will continue to invest in store remodels, expanding grocery pickup and others innovations for our customers,” Hatfield said.
Company officials are also assessing what to do with the 228,000-square-foot building. The store first opened in 1983.
The space could be used as a church, said Herbert Schilling, founder of the Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation. The building is similar to the former Delchamps building at 200 W. Willow St., which is the current home of Philadelphia Christian Church.
Other store closures will be in Knoxville, Tennessee; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Chesterfield County, Virginia; and Columbia, South Carolina.