Padre Island Highway location also on list

BROWNSVILLE — The Walmart Supercenter at 7480 Padre Island Highway in Brownsville is among dozens of locations around the country that will close permanently, according to an announcement from the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail giant.

The Padre Island Highway location is one of four Walmart locations in Brownsville. The company is closing 29 stores in Texas.

Walmart said it planned to focus on Supercenters (those remaining and those it plans to open), Neighborhood Markets, e-commerce and an expansion of its pickup service.

“The decision to close stores is difficult and we care about the associates who will be impacted,” said Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon.

“We invested considerable time assessing our stores and clubs and don’t take this lightly. We are supporting those impacted with extra pay and support, and we will take all appropriate steps to ensure that they are treated well.”

Despite the closures, Walmart said it planned to open more stores worldwide in the coming year, including 50 to 60 Supercenters and 85 to 95 Neighborhood Markets.

Shoppers at Padre Island Highway store on Friday were surprised to hear about the impending closure. Claudia Munoz said she frequently shops and cashes her check at the Walmart.

“They get a lot of business here so I don’t know why they would choose to close this one,” she said.

Jaime Perez, who goes to the Walmart three or four times a week, speculated as to the cause.

“It must be the economy is going down and they can’t afford to pay the employees and keep up the facilities, so they’re going to start closing down,” he said.

Bonnie and Terry Heaton, residents of Boca Chica Village near Boca Chica Beach, said they had shopped at the store for the last 15 years and were dismayed to hear the news.

“We are shocked,” Bonnie said. “This is our favorite store, and it is the handiest to us. I mean why not close the one on Boca Chica?”

“First they’re putting SpaceX next to us,” Terry said. “Now they’re taking our Walmart away from us, and we don’t like it.”

Gilberto Salinas, executive vice president of the Brownsville Economic Development Council, said independent businesses, national retailers, restaurants and hotels had invested in the area since the Padre Island Highway Walmart opened more than a decade ago.

“The store truly helped develop that part of Brownsville and build critical mass,” he said. “A vacant Walmart building means an opportunity for another company, and perhaps not necessarily in the retail sector.”

Salinas said the closures are a sign that the retail industry is having to evolve rapidly. Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers like Walmart have a major competitor on their hands these days in the form of the smartphone.

“Buying habits are such where consumers can shop from anywhere at any time,” he said. “It’s having a huge ripple effect on the industry, and Brownsville is no exception.”