Chinatown merchants fear a Walmart move downtown

Chinatown merchants fear a Walmart move downtown

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Reports say retail giant Walmart will move into Macy's old space in the heart of downtown. That's just a few blocks from Chinatown and the mom and pop shops that scratch out a living.

"We're a small business. They're a big, big company. So we have to handle that," Kim Tram said.

He owns the Fresh and Green store on Kekaulike Mall. He said he and his neighbors can't compete with Walmart on price or volume. They're already talking about alternatives.

"Maybe we'll talk to the landlord to help us out, lower the rent or something," he said. "That's the only thing that we can hope."

Plans with the city have all the markings of a Walmart moving to Fort Street Mall, with merchandise racks, a pharmacy and photo lab, and an area for groceries.

About 100 stores in Chinatown sell groceries. Chinatown Business and Community Association president Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock said if Wal Mart markets to their customers, that would be a killer.

"They would duplicate something like what they have in China, selling Chinese goods, or Filipino food. Then it's going to take away our business," she said.

"How are we going to stop them. Maybe what I'm talking right now, somebody can listen to us," Tram said.

Macy's old building has 85,000 square feet of space and a parking garage on top.

"We don't have sufficient parking. Walmart will have the advantage of parking, validated. And these folks don't," Shubert-Kwock said.

She said Chinatown shop owners pay about $4,000 a month for lease space. Tram said profit margins are razor thin, and losing sales to Walmart could put some of them out of business.

"I hope it won't happen. But if it happens, it happens," he said.

Walmart has nothing on its web site about moving into the Fort Street Mall space. We weren't able to get a confirmation from the company's corporate headquarters.

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