Some Pickens merchants are worried about the impact a new Walmart could have on their businesses but others are hopeful the retail giant's presence in town will encourage shoppers to stay in Pickens.
Area merchants discussed “the elephant in the room” during a recent merchants meeting held in Pickens as part of an intense design session hosted by Main Street South Carolina.
The Pickens Walmart, which is slated to open in 2013, will be located at the intersection of Hwy 8 and Roberts Road.
“Is there fear in that coming? Is there a comfort level in that coming? ” asked Tripp Muldrow, a member of the MSSC design team.
Jesse Holcombe of Holcombe Cycles welcome the retailer.
“I don't sell retail so that's actually going to bring more customer base to my motorcycle shop,” he said.
Faye Padgett of Nestfeathers said she doesn't think Walmart will hurt fellow merchants, but that it will keep shoppers in town.
“I think it will keep the people who go to Easley on Friday night for their outing, they go to Walmart and then somewhere to eat in Easley,” Padgett said. “I think it will help the restaurants here in town, if people are shopping at Walmart locally.”
David Crane of U Roll 'Em said he had mixed feelings about the store.
“I think it will help some businesses grow, because there's niches in Pickens and in other small towns around the country that Walmart can't fill,” he said. “I'm in one of those niches. But there's other businesses that Walmart could potentially hurt. So, yeah, there is a little bit of a concern there.”
Muldrow said that since Easley has had a Walmart for many years, Pickens-area merchants have already had to deal with loss of customers, so they're more knowledgeable for the impact a new one will have.
“The big stores have already done what they were going to do,” Muldrow said. “(But) if that store here keeps people here or intercepts traffic that might otherwise pass through here to get through Easley, that gives you an opportunity to capture a customer base that you might not otherwise have been able to capture.”
Muldrow said, as they punch the numbers, MSSC will able to tell the city what opportunities Walmart could bring – more need for sit-down dining, for example.
Padgett said customers in her store often ask where the closest Walmart is located.
“If we can tell them 'Right here in town' then they aren't going any further,” she said.
Crane asked how people can be happy a Walmart is moving into the area, offering merchandise at discounts area retailers can't match.
“How can you keep your doors open?” he asked.
“I'm not saying I'm happy with it,” Padgett asked. “I'm saying it's coming and I have to deal with it and be positive.”
Crane said Walmart brought new businesses to the Pelham Road area.
“But it closed down a lot of the mom and pop shops,” Crane said.
But merchants say they can offer a level of customer service that big box stores cannot.
Muldrow's said that his teams report, which will be unveiled at noon on Thursday, July 19 at the Pickens County Museum will keep Walmart in mind and offer merchants “very solid, sound recommendations on how to deal with it.”
“How to make the best of it and minimize the worst of it,” Muldrow said.