By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will close six Walmart Express stores in north Mississippi, impacting nearly 180 workers.
But the company said it will offer those employees jobs elsewhere if available.
“Our goal is to place as many associates as possible who would like to continue with the company at other nearby locations,” said company spokeswoman Anne Hatfield. “We will be giving impacted associates priority for open positions at other nearby stores. We expect that some associates will transfer to another location and others will take severance and pursue other job opportunities. As we’ve seen with other store closures in the past, the majority of associates who wished to transfer were able to.”
Wal-Mart is opening a 45,000-square-foot Neighborhood Market in Tupelo later this year, where it will employ about 60 to 70 employees.
The store closures are part of a plan announced Friday by Wal-Mart, which said it was shuttering 154 stores in the U.S. and another 115 outside the country. Most of the closures in the U.S. are the smaller Walmart Express stores in smaller communities.
The world’s largest retailer has only six of them in Mississippi, all located in the area: Belmont, Derma, Mantachie, Nettleton, Sardis and Walnut.
Nettleton Mayor Mem Riley received the phone call about the closing on Friday morning.
“That was devastating news to us,” he said. “We had planned for that store to increase our sales and that put a damper on our ideas.”
He asked if there was any chance of the board considering reopening the store, but it was an across-the-board decision.
He said the majority of customers that shopped at the market were not citizens from Nettleton.
“They are from Amory or Smithville that drive through there headed to Tupelo,” Riley said. “They come back here and shop on the way to work. They just figured out where it was, and here (Wal-Mart) is pulling the plug.”
While some have Neighborhood Market signs on them, the stores are officially called Walmart Express stores, measuring about 12,000 square feet.
All of the Mississippi stores were opened in the last year or so, most in December 2014. The stores will be closed by Jan. 28.
Walmart Express employees will receive 60 days’ pay and, if eligible, severance.
The company owns most of the locations but also leases a few of them.
If it leases the building, Hatfield said Wal-Mart will work with the owners and “other interested parties to find a suitable use” for the building. For the locations it owns, the company will look to lease or sell them.
“The important thing to understand is that we are growing overall in Mississippi,” Hatfield said. “We have 83 total stores throughout the state. We opened two new stores in Mississippi in 2015 and are projected to open six more this year. All store openings in 2015 and 2016 are providing close to 515 jobs.”