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Walmart closing four Chicago stores by Sunday

Chatham neighbors furious about closing of Walmart Supercenter
Chatham neighbors furious about closing of Walmart Supercenter 02:43

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Walmart will be closing four stores in Chicago by the end of the week, or half of its locations in the city, saying the closing stores have long been losing money.

The retail chain announced Tuesday that it would be closing the following stores by Sunday:

  • The Chatham Supercenter at 8431 S. Stewart Ave.
  • The Kenwood Neighborhood Market at 4720 S. Cottage Grove Ave.
  • The Lakeview Neighborhood Market at 2844 N. Broadway.
  • The Little Village Neighborhood Market at 2551 W. Cermak Rd.

After those stores close, their pharmacies will remain open for up to 30 days to continue serving patients.

Walmart said all employees at those stores will be given the option to transfer to another Walmart or Sam's Club location. If they don't transfer to another location, all employees will continue to receive pay and benefits through Aug. 11.

"The decision to close a store is never easy. The impact is greater than just closing a building. It affects people — people who work in, shop in and live in communities near our stores — and we never take that lightly. Treating people and communities with respect and compassion during this transition will guide everything we do," the company said in a press release.

The closures will leave Walmart with only four other stores in Chicago.  

Walmart claimed its Chicago stores have not been profitable since opening their first store in the city in the Austin neighborhood in 2006.

"These stores lose tens of millions of dollars a year, and their annual losses nearly doubled in just the last five years. The remaining four Chicago stores continue to face the same business difficulties, but we think this decision gives us the best chance to help keep them open and serving the community.

Over the years, we have tried many different strategies to improve the business performance of these locations, including building smaller stores, localizing product assortment and offering services beyond traditional retail. We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the city, including $70 million in the last couple years to upgrade our stores and build two new Walmart Health facilities and a Walmart Academy training center.

It was hoped that these investments would help improve our stores' performance. Unfortunately, these efforts have not materially improved the fundamental business challenges our stores are facing."

Walmart said it will work with city officials to find new uses for the closing stores, including the Walmart Academy training center at the Chatham location.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was "incredibly disappointed" with the store closings:

"All communities in Chicago should have access to essential goods and services. That is why I'm incredibly disappointed that Walmart, a strong partner in the past, has announced the closing of several locations throughout the South and West sides of the City. Unceremoniously abandoning these neighborhoods will create barriers to basic needs for thousands of residents. While near-term arrangements will be made for workers, I fear that many will find that their long-term opportunities have been significantly diminished. I call on Walmart to ensure that these soon-to-be-closed stores are repurposed with significant community engagement so they can find a new use to serve their neighborhoods. Walmart also needs to ensure that our residents in these communities that have been left behind will continue to have a reliable source for their everyday necessities. We as a City will do everything in our power to do the same."  

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson also lamented the Walmart closings:

"Walmart's decision to close four stores reflects national macroeconomic trends of big box stores closing, but will nonetheless leave a void in the communities they serve. These stores, especially the locations in communities that have historically lacked options for grocery stores and pharmacies, served as a crucial lifeline for communities to obtain fresh, affordable produce. We are committed to identifying ways to fill the gaps these closures will leave in neighborhoods."  

Plans for the Lakeview Walmart location were hugely controversial when they first surfaced in 2010 – with the neighborhood organizations and business groups expressing fear that the Walmart would put surrounding independent stores out of business. As the plans surfaced, signs appeared in windows reading, "Wal-Mart: Not in My Neighborhood."

The Lakeview location opened in 2013. With it now closing, there are several grocery stores nearby, including a Trader Joe's a few blocks to the south and west, and a Mariano's about two blocks to the north.

But as CBS 2's Sabrina Franza reported, it is a much different story in Chatham – where loyal customers say the Walmart Supercenter has been an oasis in what was otherwise a food desert. They also emphasize the value of its health center, and its Walmart Academy that provided job training for the community.

All of the above will close on Sunday.

"It's still like a gut punch," one man said.

Indeed, many are very upset about the news regarding the Chatham Walmart.

"I just can't believe it," said Cassandra Walker. "I came to the store, and I see people crying - and I said, what's going on?"

The parking lot of the Walmart Supercenter on Stewart Avenue was packed with angry, discouraged customers. A mural on the side of the store features the words, "Our future."

But the future of the Walmart store only involves shutting down – and neighbors say the community will be placed at a major disadvantage.

"We need the opportunity to shop in our neighborhood instead of driving so far away," Walker said.

Even though associates will be able to transfer to another Walmart or Sam's Club, the move is not so easy for some – especially those who have been working at the Chatham Walmart for years.

"That doesn't make it okay, because this is our home store," said Deadra Banks. "Like I said, I've been there for seven years. This is my second home."

Banks and Shaquita Harris have both worked at the Chatham location for upwards of seven years. Harris celebrated her eight-year anniversary just last month.

"It has so many benefits to help people better their lives," Harris said.

Those benefits include the health center and the Walmart Academy – part of a $70 million in the last couple of years. Walmart plans to donate the academy to another entity that will keep it going – but as of Tuesday, there were no takers.

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