The store is scheduled to open in the summer of 2014.
News of the groundbreaking is good for the city, consumers and other local business alike, said Venessa Funches, assistant professor of marketing at Auburn University in Montgomery.
“Sam’s is a hugely popular retailer, and it’ll probably help to drive down prices for the other stores that are already present,” Funches said.
The city stands to see a sizable boost in sales tax collections, and not just for taxes generated by the Sam’s Club itself, Funches explained.
“Customers who are primarily going to Sam’s will visit other stores in the surrounding area,” Funches said. “It will have a huge ripple effect and bring more customers out.”
Sam’s Club, a membership-only retailer operated by Wal-Mart Stores, sells products in bulk and at discounts to small businesses and individual consumers. The company currently operates 13 stores in Alabama.
Without the company’s largest competitor, Costco, in the area, Funches said the Sam’s Club “will probably rock out there. Sam’s caters to businesses as well as individual consumers.”
The company announced in 2008 plans to locate a store at the Oxford Exchange. The city, through the Oxford Commercial Development Authority, spent $2.6 million to prepare the site, installing water and sewer lines and paving a road through the property.
But plans for the store stalled, likely because of the recession, which began that year. A former Wal-Mart Stores spokesman, Glenn Wilkins, told The Star in 2011 that the company was waiting for improvements in the economy to begin construction in Oxford.
Nancy Dennis, director of public relations at the Alabama Retail Association, said Sam’s Club isn’t the only retailer making good on previously stalled expansion plans.
Many large retailers had planned to open stores across Alabama before the recession began, Dennis said.
“A lot of those plans are now coming to fruition,” Dennis said. “There’s been a big resurgence in store and restaurant openings (in the last six months).”
Holmes II Excavation is under contract with Wal-Mart, which owns the land in Oxford, to complete site preparation for the store, Denney said.
Controversy arose at the site in 2009 when the city began digging around an ancient Native American rock mound atop a hill behind the Exchange. The dirt was intended as fill for the proposed Sam’s Club.
In 2011, the city moved rocks from that mound to a spot near the city’s proposed sports complex, fulfilling an agreement between Oxford and the Muscogee Creek Nation to ensure proper treatment of the artifacts.
“For a while we thought it might not come,” said Oxford Councilman Mike Henderson, speaking of the Sam’s Club.
People are excited about the news, but with that excitement comes the realization that traffic there will only worsen at the popular shopping destination, Henderson said.
Henderson said the city may need to look at adding another entrance into the Oxford Exchange to help ease the additional traffic.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.