B.G. Wal-Mart grand opening Wednesday

Small stores brace for retail giant's presence

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter



If you go

• What: Wal-Mart's ribbon cutting ceremony will mark the opening of the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer's first Battle Ground store.n When: 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.n Where: State Highway 503 and S.W. Scotton Way, Battle Ground.

Comparison shoppers in Battle Ground will have a new store to check out Wednesday morning when Wal-Mart opens its newest Clark County site at state Highway 503 and Southwest Scotton Way.

A first for Battle Ground, the 154,000-square-foot Supercenter increases pressure on the small town's existing variety and grocery stores to compete against an industry giant. The Bentonville, Ark.-based discounter is known for buying in bulk and setting prices a bit higher than cost, a strategy that helped Wal-Mart end its 2013 fiscal year in January with sales of $466 billion, up 5 percent over 2012. But Wal-Mart reported a profit decline of 5 percent in the first three months of this year, blaming bad weather, poor sales abroad and cuts to food stamps.

The new store is Wal-Mart's sixth in Clark County since the company's first store opened in 1998 near the junction of Interstate 205 and Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard. Wal-Mart also operates stores off 192nd Avenue in Vancouver, in Hazel Dell on Highway 99, and two grocery-focused stores in Vancouver at Fourth Plain and Grand boulevards and off Vancouver Plaza Drive at Fourth Plain Boulevard.

When plans for the Battle Ground store were first announced in 2012, two online petitions drew signatures from people arguing against the project and the company in general. Much of that opposition from residents and business owners has passed, said Kenda Dabney, chairman of the 200-member Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce and general manager of the city's Best Western Plus Battle Ground Inn & Suites.

"At the very beginning, there was conflict," she said, adding that the chamber took steps to improve resources for some of its members. "We brought in a speaker that specializes in helping small businesses succeed when Wal-Mart comes into town."

Dabney sensed much of the community has changed its mind about Wal-Mart, which will present grants totaling $3,000 to local charities. The company also plans to help fight hunger in the community, as part of Wal-Mart's and the Wal-Mart Foundation's $2 billion national campaign. The work donated approximately 8 million pounds of food from Washington Wal-Mart stores last year.

"Their donations alone are great, and the fact that they want to help the city," Dabney said.

Open 24 hours a day starting Wednesday, Wal-Mart's new Battle Ground store also will provide approximately 300 full- and part-time jobs, called an economic opportunity by some city leaders, including the town's mayor, Shane Bowman.

"The store is already working hard to create strong ties to our community and is providing hundreds of new jobs," he said in a written statement issued by Wal-Mart.