First National Expanding Into Memphis-Area Walmart Stores

By Sarah Baker

The New Year marks a major milestone for First National Realty Inc., as the Memphis-based residential real estate brokerage firm has plans to expand branch offices into 13 Walmart Supercenters in the Memphis metro area.

First National has partnered with WW Franchise LLC, a Phoenix-based real estate business that offers walk-in franchises in Walmart locations. The deal represents WW Franchise’s entrance into the Tennessee market, after mostly focusing on the West Coast for seven years.

“Our stores are full-service super stores, meaning you can walk in, buy a house, rent a house, sell a house, get a home warranty, inquire about pest control – anything that’s to do with the house that you can’t particularly get at Walmart,” said Elexis McCarthy, senior operations manager for WW Franchise. “This takes it to the next level that you can get really anything you need there at Walmart.”

First National will have branch offices ranging from 400 to 700 square feet in Walmart Supercenters in the following areas: Collierville, Winchester/Hacks Cross, Whitehaven, Germantown/Trinity, U.S. 64/Wolfchase, Millington, Austin Peay/Covington Pike, Oakland/Fayette County, Senatobia, Horn Lake, Southaven, Olive Branch and West Memphis.

At least five of the 13 will be open by the second quarter of 2013.

McCarthy said 90 percent of Americans shop at Walmart, and the more people WW Franchise is in front of, the more people they can educate on the significance of homeownership. Clients don’t purchase a home on impulse, but they are quick to inquire, she said.

“The demand is very high, we have thousands of people per month, per store, that need some type of information or education,” McCarthy said. “It’s a very hot topic at a really great time in the real estate industry with rates at the all-time low. Our agents are selling just about three times the national average.”

Larry Mayall, principal with First National, called the expansion a potential game-changer for the firm he founded in 2005 that has grown to some 350 agents in its two Memphis-area offices.

First National is a virtual and paperless business with a “big box” approach to real estate, where agents retain 100 percent commission from their sales.

“I have felt for the last three or four years that at some point to impact potential clients and to impact consumers in a more direct way, that we needed to be where people are – commercial centers,” Mayall said. “By virtue of this being the No. 1 retailer in the world, it’s just a strong a potential. Then the fact that when people go to Walmart, they’re going there to spend money, they’re going there to transact business.”

Mayall has been following WW Franchise’s activity since 2007. He’s also from Arkansas, where Walmart was founded, and has a son-and-law with a manufactured line that has sold directly to Walmart for years.

“He’s studied the numbers on the Supercenters and everything,” Mayall said. “On average across the country, they have 10,000 people are week plus/minus that go to their centers. Strategically, the locations are center to population demographics.”

First National will have a broker and 10 to 15 agents assigned to each branch, which will be open seven days a week. Mayall said that puts First National at a level of accountability that it doesn’t have in the way real estate is practiced now.

“Agents will have a direct link with the client, they’ll have no ability to hide – we’re there, we’re touchable,” he said. “These are offices, much like the banks that have locations (in Walmart), and we’ll have desks in there. Plus, we will provide the resources for real estate transactions.”

Mayall, a self-dubbed “intense observer of U.S. economy,” said there are positive indicators that have been developing over the last year suggesting that the market is bottoming out. Most active real estate agents have experienced an uptick in their business, he said, and many agents who have retired their license are re-licensing and coming back in the business.

“I am inclined to think, based on the recent trends, that 2013 may be very similar to 2012, but we also could see some acceleration, depending on some other factors in the economy,” Mayall said. “It’s just a matter of strategically positioning ourselves to be able to leverage that.”

First National will host a job fair in January to recruit new agents for its Walmart branch offices. Every agent that joins First National will get $2,400 worth of free resources to help them grow their business – products for assisting buyers’ and sellers’ listings alike.

Examples of those resources include one-click craigslist posting tools, YouTube videos for every listing and a 400-piece marketing department that’s integrated with Internet Data Exchange, McCarthy said.