Thursday, May 13, 2010

Will Sam’s Club Stay or Will it Go?

By Seann McAnally and Andrea Wood

Is Sam’s Club moving to Belton? 

That seems to be the question of the moment. For more than a year, Belton officials have been attempting to lure the wholesale club – which generates more than 25 percent of Grandview’s city sales tax – to the Southtown Plaza development in Belton. 

Back in Grandview, however, the store is expanding and new signage. 

“To the best of our knowledge, we’re staying in Grandview,” said Todd Harris, club manager. 

Sam’s Club recently filed permits for new signage and exterior improvements, including a new canopy for the gasoline pumps. Harris said store officials also ahve plans for interior renovations and expansion. Two city officials said they believed a new pharmacy was slated for the store, but Sam’s Club officials could not confirm that.

The expansion is good news, said Cory Smith, Grandview’s city administrator. However, Smith said that the city is not making any assumptions as to whether Sam’s Club is staying in Grandview for the long haul until they hear from the store’s headquarters.

 “The last official word we got a year ago or so came by phone from the new CEO of Sam’s Club and former CEO of Sam’s Club,” Smith said. “They seemed adamant then that Sam’s was moving in 2011.”

Smith pointed out that the country’s economic situation has impacted many corporations, including Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.

“If the current economic market has changed their plans for new store construction as it now appears, we can certainly hope that we not only benefit from that in the near-term, but maybe longer,” he said.

Meanwhile in Belton, developers have turned to the city officials there for additional assistance in courting Sam’s Club. April 13th, developers Robert Herman and Mike Neighbors approached the Belton City Council, asking them for help in their attempts to lure Sam’s Club from Grandview to their development at 71 Hwy and 163rd St. The developers wanted the council to pass a non-binding resolution stating that the city wanted Sam’s Club to locate to the Southtown Plaza Development. 

Belton Mayor Jimmy Odom refused, stating that while the city wanted Sam’s to come to Belton, they would not endorse a particular site. Belton Councilmembers agreed with the mayor, stating that it was not their job to “sell the site” at Y Highway. Herman and Neighbors told the council that they were concerned that the City of Raymore might be aggressively pursuing Sam’s Club to come to a development at their new 71 Highway / 187th Street interchange. 

Whatever Sam’s Club corporate officials have in mind, they’re not saying – at least for now. Harris, the Sam’s Club store manager, said that despite the political and economic maneuvers, no one at the store has been told they’re moving. He said the store has a good relationship with the citizens of Grandview and wants to maintain that relationship “for a long time.” 

Harris did say that he has not been personally involved in any of the negotiations involving the possibility of the store moving to Belton. 

Smith said with cities in the region struggling to promote themselves and improve their economies, competition for the store will continue to be fierce. 

The good news, Smith said, is that Grandview citizens who want Sam’s Club to stay here can do something about it.

 “Grandview has to show Wal-Mart that this area has the buying power to provide the sales they need to justify being here,” Smith said. “Otherwise, they will continue to look at other areas based on their market research.  Yes, it requires a membership card, but maybe some people don’t realize how much food they sell there, among other things including electronics, books…and soon a pharmacy.”

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