By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced Friday its plans to close 269 stores including the Four Points Walmart Supercenter, which affects more than 260 employees and businesses including Four Points Family Vision.
Business owner and optometrist Sherry Salkhordeh — a Steiner Ranch resident, wife and mother of three — is still in shock from the announcement on Friday, when she found out about an hour before it was released to the public.
The Walmart district manager called Salkhordeh, owner of Four Points Family Vision, on Thursday night and set an 8 a.m. meeting with her. She asked if there was anything bad but the manager said, “you’re not in trouble, you’re one of the best doctors (we have in Austin.) I wouldn’t call if it wasn’t really important,” the Walmart manager told her.
The next morning at that meeting, the Walmart manager told Salkhordeh about the closing of 154 stores in the U.S. including the local Four Points store.
She was blindsided.
“It’s just not right, they should’ve given me notice,” she said. “Why they would do that… because I’ve built my practice and am working really hard.”
The Walmart district manager gave Salkhordeh reasons behind the closures.
“They’re all in high-end places,” he told her, where the community seems to do more shopping with Amazon and other online sites. “Rich neighborhoods don’t shop at Walmarts as much, and this place is losing a lot of money,” Salkhordeh said.
Four Points Walmart Supercenter opened on Jan. 22, 2007 and now 9 years later, it is closing along with Walmart’s biggest round of store closing ever, according to Anne Hatfield, Walmart spokesperson.
“The Austin store (closing) is a combination of reasons. It’s really a business decision to see what makes the most sense in the most smart way for Walmart to move forward long term,” said Hatfield,
Walmart did not give specific reasons for the local store closing and does not disclose sales performance of just one store, Hatfield said.
“We in the past haven’t been as good about right-sizing our portfolio, and the competition does. Now, it’s important we pay attention to it and watch it closely. It may mean some store closings,” Hatfield said.
Walmart owns the Four Points Austin Supercenter property and building, which is approximately 207,000 square feet. Hatfield did not have the total acres of the site.
In cases where Walmart owns the land and building, they either sell it or lease it when a store closes, Hatfield said.
Four Points Family Vision is one of a handful of businesses that run out of the Four Points Walmart. A bank and nail salon are also affected by the closure.
“They are each independent businesses and have the option to stay open through the 28th,” Hatfield said.
Four Points Family Vision has thousands of patients, most who live in Steiner, River Place and Grandview Hills, and Salkhordeh has built their trust over the years since she opened shop in Walmart in 2008.
“Patients have built trust,” she said and that is something that cannot just be re-built.
Salkhordeh and her husband, Anil, an engineer, moved to Steiner in 2000 and all three of their sons were born here: Nicklaus, Noah and Nathan.
She said she knew from the beginning that the local store wasn’t doing well.
She hoped they would cut down trees and make the store more visible from RM 620 but that didn’t happen because of City of Austin restrictions. The store went through a remodel recently too, but that didn’t draw the customers as much as was needed.
Salkhordeh said that the Walmart district manager is trying to help her relocate. Walmart has offered her a spot at the new 1431 Walmart and she’ll take that space, at least temporarily.
Salkhordeh opened Whitestone Family Vision at 2801 E. Whitestone in May 2014 but she hired another optometrist to run that.
“I’m going to try to retain all of my (Four Points) patients until I have time to find a place to move to and try to stay,” Salkhordeh said.
Salkhordeh will be seeing and notifying patients through next week and until the store closes on Jan. 28. She’s had clients call to let her know “we’re going to go where you go.”
She doesn’t know if she’ll be able to lease a local space temporarily until she she can find the right office space.
Walmart employees affected
In total, approximately 16,000 associates will be impacted by the decision, about 10,000 of them in the U.S. More than 95 percent of the closed stores in the U.S. are within 10 miles on average of another Walmart, and the hope is that these associates will be placed in nearby locations. Where that isn’t possible, the company will provide 60 days of pay and, if eligible, severance, as well as resume and interview skills training. Whether with Walmart or elsewhere, the company’s objective is to help all associates find their next job opportunity.
“We are concerned about all employees,” said Hatfield. “If they want to transfer to another Wal-Mart or SAMS, we give them priority.”
Of the 260 plus local employees, some will stay on to remove merchandise and fixtures after the doors have closed on Jan. 28, Hatfield said.
Closing sales, prescriptions
Four Points Walmart is discounting gradually between 25 and 75 percent everything in the store trying to liquidate what it can until it closes at 7 p.m. on Jan. 28.
For those Walmart pharmacy customers, prescription will likely be transferred to the nearest Walmart or SAM’s.
“If customers want to transfer elsewhere, we’re happy to accommodate somewhere else,” Hatfield said.
Corporate reasons behind closures
Friday’s action follows a thorough review of Walmart’s nearly 11,600 worldwide stores that began in October 2015. The review took into account a number of factors, including financial performance as well as strategic alignment with long-term plans. In total, the impacted stores represent less than 1 percent of both global square footage and revenue.
“Actively managing our portfolio of assets is essential to maintaining a healthy business,” said Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores. “Closing stores is never an easy decision, but it is necessary to keep the company strong and positioned for the future.”
The local Walmart is the only Walmart closing in the Austin market. There are a handful in Texas closing.
Company wide, 154 locations in the U.S. are closing, including the company’s 102 smallest format stores, Walmart Express, which had been in pilot since 2011. Walmart instead will focus on strengthening Supercenters, optimizing Neighborhood Markets, growing the e-commerce business and expanding Pickup services for customers.
Also covered in the closures are 23 Neighborhood Markets, 12 Supercenters, seven stores in Puerto Rico, six discount centers, and four Sam’s Clubs.