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Wal-Mart has set Sept. 12 as opening day for its new Juneau supercenter, its first in Alaska, said Wal-Mart corporate spokeswoman Jennifer Holder.
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The Lemon Creek store will be off Glacier Highway in the former Kmart building that has been vacant since Kmart closed. Wal-Mart bought the building in 2005 and has been remodeling it for two years.
Lance Miller of the Juneau Economic Development Council predicted the sprawling new store will bring big changes to the Juneau shopping scene.
"Certainly it will help lower the cost of goods for residents of Juneau and make Juneau more of a regional hub," he said.
Juneau's store will join at least a half-dozen Wal-Mart discount stores in Alaska, though it will be the state's first supercenter, Holder said. Wal-Mart supercenters carry groceries as well as general merchandise.
"Any retail venture the size of a Wal-Mart supercenter will have an impact on local competitors," Miller said.
"It will affect some businesses, I'm sure," he said.
At the same time, he said, he hoped Wal-Mart's famously low-priced merchandise would attract more shoppers to Juneau from outlying areas. Some, he said, might make special trips, while others would stock up while in town to take advantage of medical, governmental or other services.
Holder said they're already planning Wal-Mart's introduction to Juneau and preparing to make charitable contributions to local groups to emphasize community involvement.
She said Gov. Sarah Palin has been invited to the grand opening and hopes she'll be able to attend.
"If she's going to be in town, it's likely she'll come by," Holder said.
Palin's hometown of Wasilla was very nearly the first Wal-Mart supercenter in Alaska. Just like in Juneau, however, that store suffered construction delays and its grand opening has been pushed back until after Juneau's.
The Wasilla store, like other Wal-Marts in Alaska, is a standard discount store carrying only general merchandise but is being expanded to include a grocery store as well.
During Palin's mayorship, Wasilla experienced a growth spurt and became a regional shopping center with a thriving economy her supporters touted in last year's election.
"She was actually mayor when we first opened," Holder said.
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