If you are in North Dakota and the topic of Williston comes up there are a few stories that always seem to make it to the conversation. The story of the man camps and how people have to live in tents because there is nowhere else to live. The story of how sometimes McDonalds will be so busy that they run out of food. ( I went to that McDonalds and they were indeed packed but luckily I was able to grab a quarter pounder with cheese) And the story about the Williston Walmart.
One place I had to visit was the Walmart in Williston. This legendary Walmart where the story goes they don’t even stock the shelves. They just put the stuff on pallets and people grab what they can. I expected to find something like an open farmers market in the middle east somewhere with people fighting over merchandise and trying to get the supplies they needed to live. I had this image of a cross between the wild wild west and a 5 am sale at the mall the day after Thanksgiving.
What I found was entirely different. What I found was the biggest Walmart I had ever seen. And inside it looked much like any other Walmart with a couple of notable exceptions….
2) I do know Walmart takes great pride in their inventory control. It’s one of the things that allows them to sell at their low prices. But I have never seen so many empty shelves at a Walmart before. Especially in departments that might cater to the workers or to people with new found riches… The air mattress and camping supplies were either gone or almost gone. The electronics dept was empty in many cases. The sales of everything from entire home entertainment systems to DVD’s gone to people that had money to spend.
3) The magnitude of the sales. I didn’t see many people just stopping in to buy a hammer and a slim jim. The shoppers at this Walmart were stocking up and spending a lot of money. I don’t know what the average ticket is at this location but I’d bet it has to be one of the biggest average sales stores in the world.
4) Speaking of big ticket items. Check out this video. Walmart is actually selling living pods for the workers. They recently had to hire added security to stop campers from setting up in their parking lot. Now they are actually selling places for people to live in their parking lot. ( Although they have to find a place to put it after they buy it.)
As big as the Walmart in Williston is I have no doubt that they could open up another one ( perhaps a more averaged size Walmart) across town and do an incredible amount of business at that store too. There doesn’t seem to be any slow down, at least in the near future of the growth of the Williston ND area.
While walking the streets I saw 3 good sized motels being built for the workers and the executives who are in Williston. I suspect that if I went to other parts of town I would see apartment buildings being built and other permanent lodging. For the immediate future this area is only going to grow and perhaps expand to the central part of the state.
With this kind of rapid growth there have got to be a lot of negative factors also. I will address what I saw in part 3 of this blog…