The expansion of controversial megachain Walmart's South Philadelphia store will bring 200 new jobs and a full line of groceries, according to the company's website. But in the big box area on the 1600 block of South Columbus Boulevard that's dense with supermarkets, discount chains and pharmacies, the relaunch may also be an attempt for the store to stamp out its surrounding competition.
"We have a loyal customer base and many have been shopping here since
our original opening 17 years ago," said store manager Frank Pellicori. The store also has a loyal core of critics that have lodged a litany of complaints on the store's Yelp page, Google reviews and local message boards.
"This particular wal-mart is the epitome of everything bad about Philly and Wal-Mart combined," a poster named Sarah R. wrote in January. "The people that shop here suck, they're mean, and rude, and the staff for the most part are miserable (I would be too) rude, and not very bright. Just pay the extra dollar for your oversized bag of cheetos or cooler bag and go to Target."
Target is merely one of the competing stores located in the Delaware Waterfront area near Walmart. Supermarkets Shoprite, Superfresh, Aldi and Save-A-Lot; discount chains Marshalls, Old Navy, Famous Footwear and Forman Mills; pharmacies Rite Aid and Philly Pharmacy; hardware stores Lowes and Home Depot and furniture giant Ikea are all within a stone's throw.
Walmart may be looking to change both the store's reputation in the area and its physical landscape as one of the company's Project Impact locations. The initiative launched in 2009 hinges on cleaner, more thoughtfully-arranged interiors, friendlier employes and killing off competition in key industries like pharmacies, toy retailers and supermarkets, according to a report from Time Magazine.
Walmart's release for the expanded South Philadelphia location touts an easier-to-navigate layout, cleaner store, faster and friendlier service and a larger variety of merchandise to make "one-stop shopping" easier. Specifically, it will have more than 30 merchandise departments, including a vision center and a pharmacy, a full line of fresh produce and groceries with a bakery and deli and a McDonald's.
It will hold its grand opening at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, to include a performance by the Quaker City String Band and remarks by Councilman Mark Squilla.