Wal-Mart To Open Store In Kennewick

Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer and a discount-pricing leader, says it will open its first Washington store in Kennewick by 1994.

The discount retailer's move into Washington should send shudders through other retailers. Nationally, Wal-Mart has been a dominant retailing force in every community it has moved into, aggressively marketing a huge variety of goods at rock-bottom prices.

Wal-Mart's move into Washington probably means smaller stores and other chains will have to cut prices and focus on service to compete against the discount giant, analysts say.

"They will probably take market share from everybody," says retail analyst Jeff Atkin, who said Wal-Mart competes with existing retailers, rather than filling the need for previously unavailable goods.

"This is the first and only store we have planned so far in Washington state," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Kristin Stehben said yesterday. In March, the company opened its first Oregon store in Lebanon. By January, it plans to have 10 others in Oregon and five in Idaho.

The Wal-Mart multi-department store concept is not unknown in the Northwest. The concept is similar to Fred Meyer stores and is likely to provide especially tough competition for that retailer, Atkin said.

Other major competitors in this area are Payless Drugs and Target, though "anybody who sells anything" may feel the pinch because Wal-Mart offers a wide variety of departments.

The Kennewick store will be a large one, 116,000 square feet compared with the company's average 70,000 square feet.

In addition to 36 departments - including recreation, toys, family apparel, shoes, jewelry, electronics, and lawn and garden - and some non-perishable grocery items, the Kennewick store will have a pharmacy and snack bar, Stehben said. It is expected to employ about 245 people. No construction schedule has been set.