While big-box retailer Walmart is traditionally known for its massive, block-busting stores, Atlanta may soon become home to the nation’s smallest Walmart.
In December, Walmart signed a contract with Georgia Tech Auxiliary Services to establish a convenience store concept in the Tech Square space where restaurant Ribs n Blues was previously located.
“We were looking for something that was a non-food replacement when Ribs n Blues closed,” Director of Auxiliary Services Rich Steele told Georgia Tech’s Technique newspaper. “Walmart pharmacy was our number one target – there was a good connection with Georgia Tech – the CEO of Walmart had been on campus speaking a year and a half ago. Shortly after that, we started conversations with Walmart just about the idea [of having Walmart on Campus]…and to start some early negotiations.”
Steele said that those negotiations began in February 2012.
The current 2500-square foot location will be smaller than the only other Walmart on a college campus, also known as Walmart pharmacy, which is located at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
As for the Georgia Tech location, Steele says it will carry many of Walmart’s most popular items, but will lean toward a pharmacy-style store.
“They will carry some electronics, peripherals, a few devices. They may sell some iPods too,” Steele said. “They will also sell a lot of grocery items… frozen foods, fresh foods,… grab-and-go and beverage items. It’s like a mini CVS.”
Students can ably benefit from the lower prices that Walmart stores carry.
“Also [because] it would have Walmart selections at Walmart prices, this would not be a convenience store like BP over on Tenth St.,” Steele said. “Even our convenience stores on campus have higher pricing than Walmart can offer because of how we have to purchase the product in smaller quantities.”
Walmart may be willing to invest up to $1 million, including the costs of inventory, start-up cost and fixtures. Georgia Tech, however, will need to remove some of the built-in food service equipment that has been left over from Ribs N Blues to create a basic, “vanilla-shell space” that Walmart can use. This may require an investment of $20,000 to $25,000.
“They will be asking for feedback from students, and they’ll take the feedback they get and act on it,” Steele said. “The concept will really evolve over the first three to four years.”