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Harps Details Plans For Acquired Walmarts

A Harps storefront

Springdale, Arkansas-based Harps Food Stores has released more details on changes the employee-owned chain will make to nine Walmart Express properties it acquired in June, including opening dates, which stores will close and when job fairs will be held to staff others.

Six of the stores are located in Gravette, Gentry, Prairie Grove, Cedarville, Mansfield and Charleston, Arkansas. Three of the acquired stores are located in Missouri, in Anderson, Seligman and Noel. According to its website, Harps currently operates a store in Prairie Grove and Noel.

Four of the nine stores have or are opening as Harps: Gravette on Aug. 3; Seligman, Aug. 10; Anderson, Aug. 24; and Cedarville, Sept. 7. These stores will open with fuel stations but will not have pharmacies.

The former Walmart Express locations in Gentry, Prairie Grove and Noel will not reopen, Harps said. It will market them for sale because it already has projects in the works or is nearing completion for existing locations in those communities.

Harps said that it acquired all nine locations because the larger portfolio of stores made it a better deal. In addition, the equipment inside the stores it purchased may be used in other locations.

In April, the chain purchased a 30,000-s.f. building at the northeast intersection of Highways 59 and 12 in Gentry. The facility includes 23,000 s.f. of vacant space as well as an existing O’Reilly Auto Parts. A $3 million project is under way to remodel and convert the space into a conventional Harps store that will include a bakery/deli and produce and meat departments.

There is a similar situation in Prairie Grove, where Harps recently completed a $1 million-plus remodel to its existing store at 319 East Buchanan Street.

In Noel, Harps is finalizing plans to remodel and improve its existing store at 210 West Main Street. Work will begin later in the summer and is expected to be complete in early fall. The store will remain open during the work.

No decision has been made regarding the Charleston and Mansfield stores, the company said.

Harps needs to hire approximately 170 people to staff the stores that are opening in Gravette, Cederville, Gentry, Seligman and Anderson. It held job fairs recently for the Gravette, Seligman, Anderson and Cedarville stores, with another planned for Aug. 20 in Gentry.

In addition to these projects, Harps is working on new stores in Vilonia, Arkansas, and De Soto, Kansas, that are expected to open this fall.

Next year, Harps plans to open a Pocahontas, Arkansas, store that will replace existing locations in Lincoln and Green Forest, Arkansas.

Harps employs more than 3,900 people and operates 79 stores in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. It is the largest employee-owned company in Arkansas and the 30th largest employee-owned company in the U.S.

Big Red Stores to open 32nd Arkansas location

Th ribbon was cut May 12 in Ward.
Th ribbon was cut May 12 in Ward.

Big Red Stores opened the first of three planned new stores for 2016 in early May at 906 North Street in Ward, Arkansas. The new store is the fourth featuring a contemporary design the company says was developed to meet changing customer needs. Features include touchless bathrooms and food offerings like f’real milkshakes, fresh fruit, freshly made pizza, burgers and more.

Big Red’s Benton store on South Street will open in mid-August and then its new Little Rock store on Broadway will open in November.

“Customers’ needs and expectations are changing. They want to shop when they want and how they want, and we are transforming our stores to meet those expectations,” said David Hendrix, president of parent company Summerwood Partners. “In addition to providing customer access to a variety of consumer needs, including made-fresh foods, Big Red’s new rewards program—where loyal customers will ‘Never Pay Full Price for Gas Again’—will provide even greater value.”

Big Red Stores is Arkansas-owned with a home office in Bryant. It currently operates 31 locations in Central Arkansas.

Walmart ‘re-imagines’ the Supercenter

Walmart has been testing out new approaches to technologies, services, products and layouts at its 4208 Pleasant Crossing, Rogers, Arkansas, store since it got a facelift last year. The store is a testing ground, and the mega-retailer says it is the first step toward the “supercenter of the future.”

Hybrid registers can be self-service or manned by associates. In “high-velocity” checkouts, a cashier scans items while the customer moves through the line to pay. The retailer says this method is three times faster than conventional checkouts.

The store also offers Scan & Go, which provides shoppers with a wand they can use to scan items as they’re shopping.

Last December, the retailer introduced Walmart Pay, which allows shoppers to pay with their smartphones. It now is available nationwide. Users open the Walmart app and choose Walmart Pay to activate a camera. Any time during checkout, shoppers scan a code displayed at the register to connect to Walmart Pay. An eReceipt is sent to the app.

But not all the changes are hi-tech. In the baby department, there is a stroller garage so that parents can try them out before they buy.

There is an eatery featuring Big Rub BBQ, which is a local food truck operator. The restaurant has indoor and outdoor patio seating. It has a halo effect, according to a story in Walmart World: “Customers who like the restaurant tend to feel better about the store (and particularly fresh food credibility) overall.”

In the produce department, Walmart has improved sight lines and angled aisles to feature berries in the front of the department. Berries are a growing category, the retailer says. Bananas are located toward the back of the department.

The store’s customer service area is split, with an orange side where shoppers can pick up their online orders. On the other side, which is blue, shoppers find the money services and returns area.

Some of these ideas are the reality in a new 186,000-s.f. store in Cibolo, Texas. It opened in January and features a “Smart Life Hub” with offerings that include connected products, like fitness devices and appliances and lights that can be controlled by a smartphone.

*Editor’s note: This is part of the Arkansas Market Profile, which appears in its entirety in the August 2016 print edition of The Shelby Report of the Southwest.

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