The Wal-Mart Supercentre: Yea or nay?

File photo. Wal-Mart store (in Edmonton that looks not unlike our own). (markyeg / Flickr)

Brandon’s Wal-Mart located in the Corral Centre on 18th Street was recently upgraded to a Supercentre, benefiting students living nearby who are in need of, well, virtually anything. Known for providing shoppers with affordable prices, “Wally World” finally caters to all your possible shopping needs—from that hamster wheel your beloved (and now obese) rodent Fluffy has been missing or a fabulously cherry car freshener to a $10 classic like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to fill your Friday night. However, both in spite of and because of recent additions, the store isn’t necessarily worth all the hype generated.

Compared to Superstore’s consistently well-priced foodstuffs, Wal-Mart falls short, disappointingly. Customers are presented with a fair assortment of vegetables and fruits, but most times produce is at least $0.20 more, which may seem like a nit-picky observation, but everything adds up over time. The deli department and bread shelf is extensive, but more expensive. Beside a fairly complete chip aisle, the cracker aisle—or half-aisle, more accurately—lacks more than just one flavor of Wheat Thins, and the milk coolers at the very far recesses of the building have been known to contain as little as a single—yes, only one—jug of milk (which I took on that occasion). Even Giant Tiger offers customers remarkably better food prices, though a severely compromising selection. However, that isn’t to say all merchandise is overpriced, given Wal-Mart prices are by and large the most affordable in the city, especially compared to those of Sobeys and Safeway.

While departments are maintained relatively well, with little clutter and few pieces of oddly misplaced merchandise from other areas of the store, Sobeys and Safeway definitely have the upper hand in terms of more comfortable atmospheres. It could be lighting, the (dare I say) ‘posh’ vibe constructed by higher food prices, the décor, or simply the fact that it’s not Wal-Mart and simultaneously housing a multitude of other unrelated departments, but located only a few box malls away in the Corral Centre, Safeway provides a much more pleasurable shopping experience, if one can compromise financial affordability. Having mentioned that, students rushing into Wal-Mart to pick up that last minute bottle of Clam likely care very little about the ambiance, and are more often than not taking advantage of what everyone knows Wal-Mart can guarantee: low prices.

In expanding the building to accommodate many more aisles, they also expanded the clothing department, allowing for a more and arguably better selection in men’s, women’s and kids’ fashion. They also reorganized the layout of the entire building, making the store intimidatingly difficult to navigate. Price checkers are scarce throughout the store given the new magnitude of the premises, adding to the relative insanity inside the building during Wal-Mart’s busiest times. The so-many-items-or-less checkout lanes help ease the congestion caused by the lines of customers that have the capacity to frequently extend into the main aisle and make the store even more difficult to traverse, a problem also characteristic of Superstore despite their implementation of the self-checkout section.

Perhaps due to high expectations established by otherwise fantastic deals in every other department, the Wal-Mart Supercentre is second-rate. A humanly-innate initial distrust of change could prompt my dislike for the situation, but I did prefer Wal-Mart prior to the modifications made. Yet, of course Wal-mart will remain a very useful one-stop shop with a spacious parking lot, usually clean facility, great selection of seasonal merchandise (i.e. Christmas lights) and generally low prices. And I can guarantee that students, myself included, will not cease to become patrons of the establishment any time soon, helping the corporation on its way to becoming the ultimate all-dominating superpower into which it could potentially evolve.

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 24, March 12, 2013.