On January 30, 2018, the Walmart store in Winona will close permanently.
According to Anne Hatfield, a spokesperson from the Walmart corporate office, the store’s 85 associates were told about the closure Wednesday morning.
The Walmart pharmacy will close permanently on January 23, and customers will be assisted in transferring their prescriptions to a pharmacy of their choice or they will automatically transfer to the Grenada store, Hatfield said.
Hatfield said the reason for the closure was the company “responding to customer need.”
“We are allowing customers to shop in a way that is convenient for them,” Hatfield said. “We are reviewing our store portfolio as retail continues to change all around the globe. We are looking for the right number for long-term success.”
Hatfield said the closure was “more about having the right stores in their line.”
“Retail is evolving, and customer shopping is changing,” Hatfield said. “Part of that change is that we are bringing a lot of technology to the store with our grocery online pickup and training academies in the state. This is all part of the changes happening in retail. We are making an investment in our associates, an investment in technology, and we are remodeling stores around the state.”
In addition, the closing of the Walmart store is “an isolated closing.”
“This was not part of a larger announcement,” Hatfield said. “We are a tenant at that property. The lease is up next year and we wanted to allow the property owner to find a new tenant, help them find a new tenant.”
Hatfield said the approximate 85 associates will be paid through March 16 unless they leave the company and find other positions.
“We hope they can continue their careers by transferring to other stores,” Hatfield said. “Right now, management teams are working with the associates.”
Winona Main Street Director said she spoke with someone from Walmart’s corporate office about the company’s decision to close the store.
“They did the yearly review [of the Winona Walmart store], and we just didn’t meet their muster anymore. They want us to patronize their Super Walmart stores.”
Stidham said this is a bad day in Winona because of the loss of jobs, but she feels the closure of Walmart gives the community the opportunity to patronize other Winona retailers.
“We need to keep our money in our county,” Stidham said.
Winona Mayor Jerry Flowers, who said he has yet to be contacted by the corporate office at Walmart concerning this closure, said he is mainly concerned about the loss of jobs for the 85 associates.
“I was told I would be contacted by someone from the Walmart corporate office by telephone. That hasn’t happened,” Flowers said. “We are fighters in Winona, and we will battle this and find someone to replace it with.”
Flowers said according to his sources, sales at the Winona Walmart store have not decreased in the past three years and had shown profits.
Flowers said three years ago, he and Winona Main Street Director Sue Stidham met with Walmart executives about expanding the Winona store.
“We were told that if they expanded the Walmart store, it would hurt the Grenada store,” Flowers said. “I suggest that all citizens of Winona shop at home.”
Flowers said he and Stidham are currently working with other Winona retailers about possible expansions to satisfy the needs of the people in Winona.
“Hopefully, the people who lost their jobs can be hired with future expansions,” Flowers said.
Stidham said she is devastated by the loss of jobs of the employees.
“These are faithful employees, and if anyone has any openings, I urge them to given these employees a chance,” Stidham said.
Winona’s Walmart store opened in 1979, and according to Stidham, the store was number 215 of more than 11,000 across the globe, according to the Walmart website.
“We were one of the first,” Stidham said.
Flowers said, “Winona was here before Walmart, and Winona will be here after Walmart. We are fighters, and we will survive.”