Rant: Big Box Stores

…Checking in from the shop…

Today’s Topic: It’s amazing what “big business” can do to a little mountain town…

My shop is in a little Podunk mountain town called Avon. About 5 weeks ago we got a “Big Box” store; Home Depot. Then about 3 weeks ago we got another one; a “Super” Wal-Mart. Combined that’s about 400,000 square feet of average / below average quality merchandise. Both of these being here is pretty amazing as the entire Valley has about 40,000 people in it and half of those are only here seasonally.

That’s roughly 10 square feet of store for each resident between Dillon and Glenwood Springs…

No one is exactly sure why these stores are here now. We’ve all heard it has something to do with some marketing company’s demographics wizards divining that everyone up here drives to Denver on occasion to shop… Yeah, so that means we need a Super Wal-Mart?

The town is suffering something fierce right now. See, it’s impossible to compete with a store the size of three football fields when they get to keep all their sales tax to pay their “rent” and you have to pay $21 a square foot for retail space. Your prices just *have* to be higher to cover your lease.

There was a record amount of shady deals and palm greasing to get these monstrosities in here in the first place. The fight took well over two years as the billionaire developer was run out of Avon and sent to the county, and then came back to Avon. He finally, with the aid of quite a few expensive “experts”, managed to convince the town council (a bunch of backwoods mountain folks) that the gigantic stores would be good for them… So good in fact he convinced them to let him keep his sales tax for the next 20 years. Which, conveniently, should completely cover the loan to build the two stadium sized stores. His grand finale was convincing Eagle-Vail to give up a large portion of their Eagle River water rights for his monsters, for next to nothing.

Far too slick of an operator for the nice, laid back folks up here to deal with.

On top of this the Avon town council was concerned that the mega-stores would generate too much traffic so they decided to build an exit off of I-70 just for them. They did this so that potential customers wouldn’t be inconvenienced by actually driving though Avon… Right now people can drive down I-70 from either direction; pull off directly into the parking lots of Wal-Mart and Home Depot, and then leave much the same way without even knowing the town exists.

A month ago the shop here had about 100-150 people walk though a day. Today we’ve had 6. Last week there was a three day period where we sold one PC game for $20. We’re loosing our shirts right now and due to our lease we have to continue to spend $10,000 a month for floor space till March.

The shopping center we’re sitting in is 50% empty now with several of the remaining stores preparing to move out. Our current plan is to take the losses till March then move the whole operation to Southwest Denver where we can get a really nice 5500 square foot retail space for about $8-$9 a square foot… We’ll be paying half as much for 500 square feet more space in a nicer location.

I’m really not looking forward to moving back down to the loud, stinky, overpopulated environs of Denver, but we all do what we have to do.

The current rumor states that Mr. Billionaire is trying to kill Avon so he can buy it cheap and turn it into another resort for Beaver Creek… Imagine having the money to kill an entire town just so you could buy it and make it how *you* wanted it to be.