Updated: Wal-Mart to shutter Juneau store Feb. 5

The Juneau Wal-Mart was previously a K-Mart store. It's unknown what will happen to the building. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)
The Juneau Wal-Mart was previously a K-Mart store. It’s unknown what will happen to the building. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

Update | 5:45 p.m. Jan. 15, 2016 

Editor’s note: We’ve updated and recast the story. Our original story follows below.

Wal-Mart announced that it’s closing its Juneau location, along with 154 other stores across the country. Locally, that means about 180 people could potentially lose their jobs when the store closes next month.

Some Wal-Mart associates found out the news as abruptly as everyone else Friday morning. Ted Guthrie has worked at the Juneau store for about seven months.

“Mostly pushing carts, sweeping up, janitorial type work,” Guthrie said.

He saw rumors circulating around on Facebook before he came into work.

“Somebody just asked me if I heard. I don’t believe it until I started reading notes around the store and seeing the vendors pulling out,” he said.

Guthrie has two kids, and he calls Wal-Mart a good employer.

Juneau Mayor Mary Becker said that closure could cause a “less than secure feeling in the community.” The chain has 13 stores in Alaska but the Juneau location is the only one that’s slated to close. Becker said a regional manager called on Friday to explain why.

“He did tell me that the freight was one of the driving forces for the closure but he also said that they were doing an evaluation of their stores nationwide,” Becker said.

The chain is a major contributor to city taxes—especially sales tax.

Wal-Mart reps say the company decided to close the stores based on financial performance, the cost of doing business and plans for strategic growth. Despite the potential layoffs, Wal-Mart still plans to open 240 new stores in the U.S.

Becker thinks better transportation could help incentivize private sector jobs in Juneau.

“My personal opinion is we need to put the road in so that we do have a method of getting freight up on trucks and maybe less expensive to get to Juneau,” Becker said.

Delia Garcia, a Wal-Mart corporate rep, said associates who have been employed for at least a year could qualify for a 60-day severance package. First, the company will try to find transfer opportunities.

“Juneau is in a unique circumstance in that there aren’t other Wal-Marts relatively close by as you might find in other locations that are being closed,” Garcia said. “That’s why we want to make sure our employees are prepared for other opportunities elsewhere in working with them on preparing for that and being aware what options are available.”

Ted Guthrie said transferring to another Wal-Mart store isn’t something he can do.

“No, ’cause my family is established here in Juneau we don’t plan on moving anywhere. I’ll just be looking for another job, I guess,” Guthrie said.

Nationally, the Wal-Mart closures could affect about 10,000 employees. The Juneau store will close its doors by Feb. 5.

Original story | 11:48 a.m. Jan. 15, 2016 

(Creative Commons photo by Bo Nielsen)
(Creative Commons photo by Bo Nielsen)

Wal-Mart announced today that it’s closing its Juneau location, along with 154 other stores across the country. The store will operate with limited hours for the rest of the month and shutdown Feb. 5.

The Juneau Wal-Mart employs about 180 people full- and part-time. Delia Garcia, a Wal-Mart corporate rep, said the company decided to close the stores based on financial performance, the cost of doing business and plans for strategic growth.

“That’s really, as we look at all of the stores, the criteria that we assigned. Juneau just resulted on the list of closures,” said Garcia.

Garcia said Wal-Mart associates who have been employed for at least a year could qualify for a 60-day severance package. First, the company will try to find transfer opportunities.

“Juneau is in a unique circumstance in that there aren’t other Wal-Marts relatively close by as you might find in other locations that are being closed,” Garcia said. “That’s why we want to make sure our employees are prepared for potential opportunities elsewhere in working with them on preparing for that and being aware what options are available for them.”

There are 12 Wal-Marts in Alaska that will remain open. Nationally, the closings could affect about 10,000 employees.

Despite the potential layoffs, Wal-Mart plans to open around 240 new stores in the U.S.

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