Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

PALOUSITICS EXCLUSIVE - Wal-Mart: What's Next? Part Five

This is Part Five of a series of articles that will explore what happens when a Wal-Mart Supercenter comes to town.

The information contained below is being made publicly available on the web for the first time.

Covington, WA, is a fast-growing suburb of Seattle located in southeastern King County. I used to live just up the road from Covington in Kent.

Covington is booming, with many new retail and housing developments. I was there not too long ago. There is a new Safeway, I believe, with a Starbucks in it, and another Starbucks across the parking lot in the same strip mall!

In 2005, Wal-Mart opened a store there after some opposition. Building a Wal-Mart anywhere in the metroliberal Seattle area is next to impossible, as you can imagine. I've been to the Covington Wal-Mart. It is very nice and very unobtrusive, located well off the main drag of Kent-Kangley Road.

Michael Luis & Associates, a public affairs, communications and civic leadership consulting firm in the Seattle area, has prepared profiles assessing the impact of the opening of Wal-Mart stores in communities throughout Washington. The one concerning Covington can be downloaded here.

Some highlights:
  • The Covington Wal-Mart has only been open two years, but the impact of that store opening is clear. The major jump in sales from 2004 to 2005 reflects the opening of the new Wal-Mart in Covington, which opened its doors in early 2005.

  • Retail store sales growth in this fast-growing community has been even stronger and more consistent than Covington since 1998. Sales growth in Maple Valley slowed only very slightly from 2004 to 2005, during the opening year of the Covington Wal-Mart, indicating that the new Wal-Mart did not take a big bite out of retail in Maple Valley.

  • The retail customer traffic drawn by Wal-Mart has been a catalyst for additional retail development in the emerging “downtown” of Covington.

  • Covington has benefited from increased tax revenues generated by expanded retail. A major new retailer like Wal-Mart shows up most prominently in increased local sales tax revenue, but also shows up in property taxes paid on the new building and whatever mix of business and utility taxes levied by the local government.

    ...the jump in inflation-adjusted revenues to the City of Covington between 2001 and 2005. During this four year period alone, sales tax revenue grew an inflation adjusted 54 percent.

  • As part of the development of the store, Wal-Mart made significant contributions to traffic mitigation measures that will serve other retail and future residential development in Downtown Covington. According to Hart, a well-designed store and adequate traffic improvements have made Wal-Mart a major net plus for the City.

  • According to Messer, of the Covington Chamber, Wal-Mart is a “fantastic” contributor to the community. Store personnel are active in the chamber and in local service clubs, regularly attending events.

    In 2006, Wal-Mart made two important community contributions. When the annual “Covington Days” festival was threatened with cancellation, due to lack of funding, Wal-Mart stepped up with a check for $10,000, ensuring that the festival would take place. Wal-Mart also participated in a volunteer recognition event at Covington Elementary School, providing clothes for students to wear at a fashion show.
  • Thursday: We'll hop over to Apple Country and look at the effects of the Wal-Mart that opened in Wenatchee.

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