Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Walmart, the great scapegoat

I know this grocery store, and the excuse given for its closing annoys me.

Last year in a bid to stay in business, Gutknecht’s Market in Chippewa Falls reduced its staff to three.

But that move wasn’t enough to keep open the store famed for its sausage, hot dogs, hamburger and steaks.

The popular meat market at 440 W. Elm St. is closing at the end of April, store manager John Demers confirmed Friday.
Demers said the Gutknecht Market’s closure is due much to competition from large stores, such as Wal-mart. (ital mine)

“It’s hard to compete,” he said.

This is actually the second tour of business for the store, which was originally opened in 1930 by Robert W. Gutknecht.

Four generations of the Gutknecht family operated the store until April 2002, when Dave Gutknecht Sr. decided to retire.

The store reopened in July 2003 under the ownership of Scott and Stacey Bernard of Yorkville, Ill.

Yes, competition played a part in their closing, but not because outfits like Walmart proved an insurmountable competitor. It played a part because this smaller store didn't optomize its advantage, which was a meat market that customers in the area and beyond loved. Under the original owners, this was a small, family-owned, neighborhood grocery store that had a great meat department. The meat department was the bread and butter, but the groceries kept those in the neighborhood from going downtown or to Eau Claire for the basic grocery needs that came up on a day to day basis. I cannot tell you how many times I went on small trips to pickup urgent needs at that store. The new owners did not follow that model, and that would have been fine, but they would have needed to turn the store into a meat and dairy products destination. Instead, they ended up somewhere in the middle, and that just wasn't good enough. I was just talking with someone today about the fact that they charged $18 for an 18 pack of MGD cans. If you are going to raise the margin that high, why bother? The loyal local customers would have supported that store at higher margins because of the convenience and the meat department. But when they raised margins on items beyond what their convenience was worth and cut back on assortment, all they were left with was a meat department that wasn't the destination it could have been. None of that is Walmart's fault.

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