Monday, June 08, 2015

Rural West Virginia grocery stores struggling to remain open; Walmart to blame for closures

Rural Appalachian grocery stores are struggling to remain open, especially in areas where Walmart has expanded, Jake Jarvis reports for the Charleston Gazette. Researchers from Iowa State University say that 10 years ago it took a customer base of 3,252 to keep a local grocery store open, compared to 15 years ago when the number was 2,843. One reason is that in rural areas where Walmart has opened, growth of local grocery stores has decreased by 17 percent.

That is leading to food deserts in towns like Richwood, W.Va., where 19.2 percent of the population lives in poverty, and residents either have to travel out of town to buy groceries or shop at dollar stores or convenience stores, Jarvis writes.

Grocery store owner and state senator Doug Facemire said he closed Richwood Foodland because the store didn't have enough customers to justify remaining open, Jarvis writes. Facemire said "one of the biggest problems he sees facing the Mountain State’s grocery industry is a lack of wholesale grocers. A wholesaler in Milton used to supply the products for all of Facemire’s stores," but he now gets everything shipped from Pennsylvania. Facemire, who claims Richwood residents are more interested in shopping at Walmart than locally, told Jarvis, “I understand that they’re upset, but these people in small towns just want a local store when it’s handy.”

But many Richwood residents lack the transportation to drive out of town to buy groceries, which forces people to only shop within walking distance, Jarvis writes. But if people can get to Walmart, they do, as evidenced by the fact that there are 39 Walmart Supercenters in West Virginia, making it the largest private employer in the state. (Read more)

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