CHICAGO — Walmart, the largest retailer in the world, is set to close 269 stores, including locations in River North and Lakeview.
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) tweeted Friday morning that the retail giant will close two of its smaller, urban-format stores in River North and Lakeview as part of a nationwide shuffling.
The Wrigleyville & River North locations are two of the 269 stores closing. The "small box" urban experiment failed. https://t.co/4KGIMf9eH0— Brendan Reilly (@AldReilly) January 15, 2016
A Walmart Express opened in 2012 near the Chicago Brown Line station at 225 W. Chicago Ave. Another opened a year earlier at 3636 North Broadway in Lakeview.
Delia Garcia, a spokeswoman for the Bentonville, Ark.-based chain, confirmed that the two stores will close at 7 p.m. Sunday. Garcia said 110 employees will be affected, and if they are unable to transfer to another store by Feb. 10, they will receive 60 days pay.
Garcia added that Walmart is "looking at all kinds of strategies" to "decrease the merchandise" in the stores before they close.
"Obviously the express stores have been a pilot for a few years," Garcia said. "While we learned a lot from the pilots … we decided not to proceed with that offering. We believe the full-size neighborhood market is better for our customers."
The closings are a sign the express version of the superstore "failed" and that the company "underestimated the strong 'shop local' philosophy of our neighborhood," said Maureen Martino, executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce.
"Walmart took a risk geographically in an area that did not seem to match their consumer base hoping to gain more affluent customers," Martino said Friday afternoon. "Perhaps there were some lessons learned in the process."
But at least one customer will be sad to see it go.
"It's very much of an inconvenience that it's closing," said Jon Miehl, 85, who does two-thirds of his grocery shopping at the Lakeview Walmart Express. Without the store in walking distance from his Waveland Avenue apartment, he'll be settling for the slightly longer walk to Jewel-Osco.
"It's still a hassle, but otherwise I need transportation" to get to the Walmart at Broadway and Surf, Miehl added.
Lakeview's location near Broadway and Addison opened in November 2011 as the second Walmart Express in Chicago, WBEZ reported at the time.
Alds. James Cappleman (46th) and Tom Tunney (44th) supported the location and assisted Walmart in addressing community concerns, according to WBEZ.
The 14,800-square-foot store is about half the size of the Walmart Neighborhood Market down the street in the Broadway at Surf complex, 2840 North Broadway. While Walmart announced plans for that store before the Walmart Express, it didn't open until 2013.
Back in 2011, neighbors and the Lakview East Chamber of Commerce pushed back against the plans for the Walmart Express.
Even Cappleman expressed some frustration regarding how the company presented plans for the 3636 North Broadway location, Crain's Chicago wrote. He said at the time he didn't hear from Walmart about its plan until after Crain's contacted him for comment.
Cappleman was informed of the Lakeview closure Friday morning, but declined further comment through his chief-of-staff on Friday.
The building at 3636 North Broadway is also home to Walgreens and a self-storage space. Investor John Mengel bought the property in 2011 for $5.7 million, Crain's reported. Prior to the purchase, the building was vacant after a greeting card company moved out in 2007.
The closures will arrive just a few months after Walmart's chief executive said the chain will review its store roster in the face of renewed competition from the Internet and elsewhere. Walmart operates 4,500 stores in the United States.
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