With a 9-3 vote two weeks ago, the Cherokee Tribal Council expressed going forth and approving plans to build a Wal-Mart in Cherokee. Construction is planned for the corner of Business 19 and Hospital Road. Although sometimes criticized for its potential to put small “mom-and-pop” stores out of business, especially in small communities, this Wal-Mart could be hurting a much bigger business-another Wal-Mart. “It’s called cannibalizing,” said an employee of the Sylva Wal-Mart who wanted to remain nameless. The cannibalizing of customers occurs when an established store loses customers due to the opening of another store of the same company in a relatively close proximity.
“The Tribe just OK’ed it, we don’t know if they’re going to build it yet. We’d rather add on here. We need a larger receiving area.” The employee went on to say that the recent opening of the Wal-Mart in Waynesville, which pulls its customers from west of Asheville, had cut down on sales some four to five percent. They estimate that the Cherokee store, which will take away the customers from not only Cherokee, but near-by Bryson City, will also take an additional four to five percent from their current sales.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Michell Hicks has been quoted giving his support for the new Wal-Mart. Chief Mitchell Hicks expresses that it will help Cherokee’s tax base as well as bring jobs and new real estate opportunities. Despite his optimism, there are many living in Cherokee that have reservations about the proposed new business. Rumors of the Wal-Mart selling of Cherokee souvenirs such as small tomahawks has some of the locals worried that it will take away revenue from the small community stores that depend on tourist money.
“I mean they’re putting it right beside the hospital so that everyone that drives down the main highway will see it and get sucked in. It’s really going to hurt the smaller businesses that are just barely getting by,” said a member of the tribe named Freddy. WCU student Ben Adair concurs, “That’s typical Wal-Mart to go into an area and destroy the small businesses.” On a national level, despite the drop in the job market, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has set a goal of creating 22,000 by the end of the year. Also, Wal-Mart has expanded its health insurance and made it available for part time employees as well as full time. Wal-Mart’s fiscal report for the third quarter of 2009 showed earnings at $97.6 Billion, a 7.5 percent rise from one year ago.