The first thing I notice about the just-opened-yesterday urban Wal-Mart in Atlanta is that it doesn´t sit behind acres of asphalt. It’s nestled down in a depression (below street level) near a shopping center on the site where a hotel used to be. It’s right off of Interstate 75 at Howell Mill Road, an in-town Atlanta location. I don’t even notice it until I really look for it, even though I am very familiar with the area. With multi-level parking substituting for the usual asphalt-as-far-as-the-eye-can-see, it feels very, uh, urban, which is the point.
Inside the new store — where I arrive one hour after it opens for the first time — it is immediately appealing. Not being big on Wal-Mart (I prefer Target), I am surprised. But what exactly is different?
It is hard to say, walking through the store, but it is so un-Wal-Mart like that I keep finding things I might buy if I were here to shop instead of work.
For one thing, it doesn´t feel cluttered — one of my usual complaints about Wal-Mart. It feels spacious, and the displays keep pulling me in for closer looks. And when I get there, the merchandise doesn’t disappoint.
Two other Supercenters opened in Atlanta yesterday, too, and I don´t visit those, but I learn from the folks at Wal-Mart that some of what I see at the in-town store I also could see at the other two new stores. Wider aisles is one improvement. Hooray for that. Hardwood floors in some places is another innovation. Nice. The signage is very un-Wal-Mart-like in that it makes the place feel, well, “with it.”
Oh, and the in-town store is smaller, at 150,000 square feet, compared with 204,000 square feet at the other two new Atlanta Wal-Marts.
Overall, it’s quite a change and a store to which I think I will return.
An in-town Wal-Mart! Never thought I’d see the day.