Wal-Mart effect minimal

Published 11:03 am Friday, August 15, 2008

At least one local business says it hasn’t been severely stressed by Wal-Mart’s new local presence.

Hy-Vee, located across the street from the Wal-Mart Super Center on 18th Avenue Northwest, has performed well in the month it’s competed with Wal-Mart, according to store staff, who credit customer loyalty and a recent renovation to its continued strength.

“The biggest thing is it’s nice to see how loyal our customers are to us,” store director Todd Hepler said. “I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that things haven’t slipped a bit, but when you look at a Hy-Vee customer, they’re always Hy-Vee.”

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It’s not the first time the grocery store has reckoned with a new competitor, said Hepler, who added that Hy-Vee celebrated its 35th anniversary in Austin Aug. 13. They are gearing for a larger event in September.

“I’ve been through this more than one time,” Hepler said. “Normally you’re pretty slow for the first four to eight weeks, and in this case that really didn’t happen.”

Smaller specialty stores say they also haven’t felt a hard pinch.

Ruskell Hardware, located at Oak Park Mall, hasn’t suffered either, according to management there, who said that the store has actually seen somewhat of a revenue boost.

“None at all,” said manager Amie Hoesing, referring to sale declines. “If anything, they may have picked up a bit.”

Bonnie Mogen, of downtown Bonnie’s Hallmark, said she’s not sure of the economic effect, given that now is a slower season for her.

“I really can’t say for sure,” she said.

Representatives from Target, Kmart and Jim’s Supervalu were not available for comment.

And with a month behind it, Wal-Mart, which opened July 16, has met business expectations, say local managers and corporate spokespersons.

“Everything has gone as planned,” store manager Lee Kruse said. “Nothing has surprised me yet.”

The 194,000 square-foot store, which employs more than 325 people, offers a variety of retail, including groceries, electronics, home decor, a pharmacy and garden.

“Our customers seem to enjoy the one-stop shopping experience,” Wal-Mart spokesperson Ashley Hardie said.