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Target vs. Wal-Mart: The battle of Summit discount giants begins

SUMMIT COUNTY – Traffic at the Frisco Wal-Mart was lighter than usual Wednesday, and sales were down, a clerk said. But the long-term impact of Silverthorne’s new Target on the county’s longtime sole discount chain retailer likely won’t be known for months.

Target opened to the public Wednesday and plans a grand opening Sunday.

Many shoppers at the new store’s Tuesday pre-opening shopping party said they’re die-hard Target supporters.



But several Wal-Mart customers said Wednesday they likely will shop at both – unless one is markedly cheaper than the other.

But it’s not just Summit County residents who will bring tax dollars to the new store. Silverthorne’s Target is making waves as far away as Steamboat Springs.



“People have been talking about it,” said Scott Stanford, editor of the Steamboat Pilot and Today. “We certainly presume it will have an impact because of the lack of major chain retailers in Steamboat. This would be the nearest Target to Steamboat Springs.”

While Steamboat residents are excited, Frisco’s leaders aren’t. The town relies on Wal-Mart for the bulk of its sales tax revenues, and Mayor Bob Moscatelli said he knows the new Silverthorne store will reduce those numbers.

“To be sure, the opening of a brand-new Target store is going to adversely affect Wal-Mart’s revenues,” he said. “How badly it affects their revenues remains to be seen. I am optimistic that (Wal-Mart’s) almost completed remodel will allow them to compete positively with the new Target store. I’m going to continue to shop Wal-Mart.”

Wal-Mart plans a grand opening for its newly remodeled store at 7:30 a.m. March 11. Moscatelli will cut the ribbon.

But no one should expect a Wal-Mart Supercenter to open in response to the competition down the road. While Wal-Mart has long searched for an appropriate site for a super store in Summit County – first in Silverthorne and most recently in Frisco – it repeatedly has come up empty handed.

“We’re not optimistic,” Moscatelli said. “We have not heard anything from corporate Wal-Mart in the last three months since we met with one of their representatives.

Frisco officials had eyed a parcel of land behind Safeway for a Wal-Mart Supercenter, but the site appears to be too small.

“It was a question of they want a 15-pound and we’ve only got a 10-pound bag,” Moscatelli said. “As I understand it, 15 acres is the minimum size (for a super store).”

The tug-of-war for sales tax revenues among the county’s four municipalities is almost legendary. Breckenridge, with its collection of tourist-oriented shops, has stayed mostly clear of the battle. But Dillon, Silverthorne and Frisco have for years struggled with one another for the almighty retail dollar.

City Market’s 1998 move to Dillon prompted Silverthorne to try to bring Wal-Mart to town; then the town moved on to successfully lure Target. Frisco, meanwhile, tried in vain to find a site for the Wal-Mart’s Supercenter.

Breckenridge Mayor Sam Mamula, speaking from his relatively objective seat in the town locals often refer to as “The Kingdom,” believes the county’s decision makers too often focus on what’s happening under their noses. It’s time, he said, to look at threats to sales tax that loom outside the county’s boundaries.

“I think we are being very provincial in this whole thing,” he said. “I think the bigger threat is probably from an Avon or an Eagle.”

A Wal-Mart Supercenter and Home Depot are slated to open in Avon this spring.

“We should look at it as more than if Dillon is screwing Silverthorne or Silverthorne screwing Frisco,” he said. “We should look at it from a county standpoint as opposed to just towns.”

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What locals are saying about Target and Wal-Mart

– “We pretty much put the boycott on Wal-Mart when they started tearing the place up (during the recent remodel). I know they’re trying, but I think too little, too late. They don’t even clean their parking lot. I think Target has much better quality products.” – Alison Palmer, Breckenridge

– “Whatever’s cheaper. Competition is a good way to drive prices down.” – Jamie Madden, Copper Mountain

– “(Target) has everything Wal-Mart doesn’t have.” – Melody Cornish, Silverthorne

– “Anything that’s not busy, I’ll go to,” “If I’m in Frisco, I’ll go to Wal-Mart. I like the fact (Target) is going to take some of the business out of here.

“My roommate is totally excited (about Target), but my roommate is in a wheelchair. Wal-Mart’s aisles are too narrow for a wheelchair.” – Kathy St. James, Silverthorne

– “We’ll probably shop both. We go to the senior center (in Frisco), so we go by Wal-Mart. We have no big preference.” – Norma Robison, Summit Cove

– “(Target) seems better and more spacious than the established competitor.” – Sue McCormick, Dillon Valley

– “I’ll still come here (to Wal-Mart) sometimes, but sometimes they’re out of things. I’ll come and they’ll have no shower curtain rings, things like that.” – Patti Carr, Breckenridge

– “I live in Breckenridge, so Wal-Mart’s closer and quicker. But I liked the old (premodel) Wal-Mart. I knew where everything was.” – Scott Tate, Breckenridge

– “It doesn’t matter. We only go to Silverthorne now and again, so it’s easier to come here.” – Lee Sargeant, Breckenridge


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