Wal-Mart Testing Hybrid Trucks, Alternative Fuels
Bentonville, Ark. Wal-Mart Stores announced Monday it will test two new types of heavy-duty commercial hybrid trucks and two different alternatively fueled heavy-duty trucks as part of the company’s efforts to build on its progress in developing a more sustainable trucking fleet.
“In order to meet our goal of doubling our fleet efficiency, we are taking an active role in the development of these technologies,” said Chris Sultemeier, senior VP of transportation for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. “We look forward to determining if these technologies will help reduce our environmental footprint, are viable for our business and provide a return on investment.”
Wal-Mart achieved more than a 25% increase in efficiency within its private fleet between 2005 and 2008, surpassing one of the company’s stated sustainability goals. By reaching this goal, Wal-Mart has been able to reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions and its fuel use. This goal was reached by using a combination of new, innovative technologies, better delivery routes and by loading its trailers more efficiently. Now, the company is working toward its goal of doubling its fleet efficiency by 2015, from its 2005 baseline. Part of this pilot program is to determine if alternatively fueled trucks can help move Wal-Mart toward that goal in addition to reducing environmental impacts.
The trucks Wal-Mart will test include a full-propulsion ArvinMeritor hybrid that will initially operate in the Detroit area. This dual-mode diesel-electric hybrid is believed to be the first vehicle of its type. Others include:
- Fifteen trucks operating in the Buckeye, Ariz. distribution center near Phoenix, will be converted by the Environmental Development Group to run on reclaimed grease fuel, made with the waste brown cooking grease from Walmart stores. In addition, the remaining trucks located in the Buckeye DC will operate on an 80/20 blend of biodiesel made of reclaimed yellow waste grease;
- Five Peterbilt Model 386 heavy-duty hybrid trucks with diesel-electric hybrid power systems developed by Eaton Corp. and PACCAR, that will be based in Dallas; Houston; Apple Valley, Calif.; Atlanta; and the Washington, D.C./Baltimore regions and;
- Four Peterbilt Model 386 trucks, and one yard truck which operates only on the DC property, will operate on liquid natural gas. These trucks are part of a partnership with the Mojave Air Quality Management District and will operate out of the DC in Southern California.
Beyond the Box
To be competitive, especially in an economy where being competitive is the name of the game, power centers are being forced to up the amenity and atmosphere antes, or face assured vacancies.
The format that traditionally featured a series of big-box retailers in a sizeable strip has given way to an open-air, amenity-rich shopping center that combines the expected power retailers with a lineup of lifestyle tenants and restaurants.
The result is a powered-up version of a power center that is finding a surprising degree of success even when times are tough.
Case in point: Front Range Village in Fort Collins, Colo.
The 900,000-sq.-ft. hybrid power center, developed by Birmingham, Ala.-based Bayer Properties, is located on 110 acres in the heart of the northern Colorado market of Fort Collins, at the intersection of Harmony and Zeigler Roads just west of Interstate 25. Opened in July 2008, the project is anchored by SuperTarget, Lowe’s, Staples, Sports Authority, DSW and a joint Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us format. Of the 900,000 sq. ft. total, 645,000 sq. ft. is big-box retail along with junior anchors and surrounding retail and restaurants; 175,000 sq. ft. is Main Street specialty retail, restaurants and a library; and nearly 80,000 sq. ft. is office space.
The library—a 10,000-sq.-ft. branch of the Fort Collins Library System—is slated to open at the end of March. “The library and the office space will both add further synergy to the site,” said David Silverstein, principal of Bayer Properties. The office space is currently leasing, with some of the space coming on line in summer 2009 or sooner.
Components such as office and civic uses have been shown to add measurable pull to a shopping center, but Front Range Village has managed to find a high degree of draw prior to the opening of the added uses. The property, said Silverstein, generated the highest store-opening sales in the country for SuperTarget and Sports Authority, and Toys “R” Us/Babies “R” Us and DSW both exceeded plan by double-digit margins.
“The SuperTarget at Front Range Village continues to exceed sales plan driven by a strong initial opening, good customer traffic during the fall and steady traffic during the holiday season,” said SuperTarget team leader Tyson Buhre. “The location and shopping environment at Front Range Village have been instrumental in SuperTarget’s success.” SuperTarget had the highest sales in the nation out of 43 store openings in the same time period in July 2008, and Sports Authority had top sales compared to 11 other stores.
That is weighty testament in today’s downturn. When retailers in every corner of the country are struggling to stay afloat, a success story can elevate belief that the right format in the right location still can work.
“The site is terrific, as Fort Collins has been the retail hub of northern Colorado for years,” said Silverstein. “But there is more to Fort Collins than its retail offerings.” The community of 290,000 people has been named one of the best places to raise kids and, in 2006, as the No. 1 place to live in the United States. The metropolitan statistical area is the second-fastest expanding market in the state of Colorado.
“In short, the center’s success can be attributed to three things,” said Silverstein. “First, to the market itself; second, to the center’s location within the market; and, third, to the fact that we have been able to expand certain concepts such as the 175,000-sq.-ft. SuperTarget, which had a smaller, non-superstore elsewhere in Fort Collins; and the 45,000-sq.-ft. Sports Authority, which also had a smaller facility in town.”
In Search of Retail
As retailers cut back on expansion nationwide, it is becoming all the more important for an under-retailed city to reach out and grab tenant attention. Just ask the City of Hesperia.
Hesperia, Calif., wants more retail. In fact, it is the city’s goal to become the retail capital in San Bernardino Capital’s Inland Empire North. “We’d love to be that,” said Steven J. Lantsberger, City of Hesperia’s economic development director. “We now have to deal with the [struggling] economy and, as such, our dream may take a little longer to capture than perhaps it would have a couple of years ago.”
Up until the early 2000s, Hesperia’s demographics couldn’t command much retail or restaurant attention. But now, said Lantsberger, that has changed. “As the city grows out population-wise, it will be the largest city in the High Desert.”
To better match the retail offerings with the growing population, Lantsberger and his economic team have devised a series of incentive programs designed to motivate businesses to include Hesperia in their expansion plans. Three on-the-shelf programs include brokers’ incentives, a franchise incentive program and restaurant rewards, but customization is available as well.
“We have other means and sources of assistance available that are tailored on a case-by-case basis,” said Lantsberger. “We try to be fluid and dynamic so we can flex to the needs of the business.”
Hesperia’s ability to flex and bend has led directly to the construction of a new community/power center anchored by SuperTarget. The 363,000-sq.-ft. center, named High Desert Gateway, was developed by Upland, Calif.-based Lewis Retail Centers and is located at Interstate 15 and Main Street.
“Collaborating with the City of Hesperia on the High Desert Gateway project has been an excellent experience,” said Randall Lewis, executive VP of Lewis Retail Centers. “In addition to our great working relationship with the city, they have also proven to be extremely pro-active and very accessible and eager to work with prospective retailers and brokers.”
That, it turned out, was key to attracting SuperTarget. According to Lantsberger, there was significant negotiation among Lewis, Target and the agency and city to fine-tune an assistance package that was going to make the project viable. “This was the first major retail project in that quadrant of the city,” said Lantsberger, “and while I can’t provide specific details about the assistance package, suffice it to say that there was a package ultimately approved for Lewis for this project.”
Sprouts Farmer’s Market will join the center with a late-spring or early-summer 2009 opening, building its home in a project filled with unlikely power-center amenities—fountains, sculptures, green space, lush landscaping and an attractive Main Street, making Front Range Village a center of which the city and its residents can be proud.
“It’s important to recognize Fort Collins’ willingness to work with us on a public/private partnership,” said Silverstein. “The project wouldn’t have happened without the city’s cooperation.”
Filling the Plastic Gap
Home foreclosures, maxed-out credit cards and high banking fees continue to affect consumers across the board, but these factors are especially taking their toll on people who are unbanked or under-banked. This demographic is one that seeks out alternative payment methods, and Dollar General is working toward responding to their demand.
There are 73 million unbanked and under-banked consumers in the United States, according to data from Wal-Mart Stores. There are countless others who carry maxed-out credit cards and live day-to-day on a cash basis without access to a banking service. Dollar General hopes to ease this pain and fill this “plastic gap” by offering its shoppers a reloadable prepaid card.
In December, Dollar General introduced its Discover Network Reloadable Prepaid Card, from Tampa, Fla.-based financial services company and card solutions provider nFinanSe. The card, which can be purchased and reloaded in more than 9,000 nationwide stores, can also be used to buy goods and services across all of Dollar General’s shopping channels, as well as at other chains that accept payment cards using the Discover Network.
“We wanted to offer consumers a low-cost payment alternative to help them meet their shopping needs,” said Tawn Earnest, senior director of corporate communications for Dollar General.
Dollar General achieved its goal by marketing its prepaid card as a “walking bank account.” Cardholders can use the cards to make purchases at retail stores and online, as well as get cash back at retail stores and ATMs.
The cardholder can log onto the nFinanSe Web site by entering their card and PIN number to give them access to their transaction history and the ability to transfer money from their card to a checking or savings account.
The card also includes free customer service provided by nFinanSe. As shoppers register for the card, they qualify for a free replacement card upon its expiration. The cards are active for 36 months from the time they are printed; if an active card expires, nFinanSe will issue a new card.
Cardholders can also opt in to receive e-mails or text messages on their cell phones that report real-time transaction and balance information.
Dollar General sells the cards for $5.95, and each carries a monthly maintenance fee of $2.95. While the card requires a $2.95 fee for all reloads, it does not apply any dormancy fees if the card goes unused. Each registered card caps maximum daily loads at $950. The maximum total card value is $5,000.
Besides expanding the Dollar General brand, the program also helps the chain build customer loyalty, as cardholders will begin to consider the chain a destination when reloading the card, Earnest said.