Wal-Mart’s Urban Push Includes Helping Retailers
By George Anderson
Wal-Mart has been faced with opposition every step of the way in its attempts to gain a foothold in large urban centers around the U.S.
Now, the world’s largest retailer has developed a plan that it hopes will help overcome much of the opposition so that it can reach its goal of opening 50 new stores in urban neighborhoods over the next two years.
Wal-Mart has been long criticized for driving smaller local competitors out of business. As part of its new urban initiative, the retailer attempts to address those concerns by offering local businesses financial grants, training on how to survive with the retail giant and free advertising in its stores.
“We see we can be better for communities than we have been in the past if we are willing to stretch ourselves and our resources,” said Lee Scott, chief executive of Wal-Mart, in a conference call earlier in the week.
Wal-Mart plans to establish what it calls “jobs and opportunity zones” in 10 cities where it is looking to build stores. According to a company release, Wal-Mart will look to build stores “with high crime or unemployment rates, on sites that are environmentally contaminated, or in vacant buildings or malls in need of revitalization.” The company estimates it will create up to 25,000 new jobs and generate more than $100 million in state and local tax revenues from these locations.
The first location identified as a “Wal-Mart jobs and opportunity zone” is located on the West Side of Chicago.
Among the initiatives Wal-Mart plans is to identify up to five local businesses on a quarterly basis that the retailer will feature in its print ads as well as its in-store radio network.
The company will create what it calls development teams to hold seminars with local businesses on how to use Wal-Mart’s presence as a means to improve their own results.
“Wal-Mart has never been afraid to invest in communities that are overlooked by other retailers. Where those businesses see difficulty, we see opportunity. That is who Wal-Mart has always been, and that is who we remain today,” said Mr. Scott. “This is a commitment to reach beyond our stores, to further engage the community, and to offer an even greater economic boost to people and neighborhoods that need Wal-Mart the most.”
Not everyone was as sanguine about Wal-Mart’s announcement. Chris Kofinis, a spokesperson for Wake-Up Wal-Mart, a union-supported organization that often criticizes the retailer for its treatment of workers, told The New York Times, called the program “another P.R. stunt in a litany of P.R. stunts.”
Moderator’s Comment: Will local communities in depressed urban areas benefit from Wal-Mart’s jobs and opportunity zones initiative? Is there a lesson
here for other large retailers looking to move into inner city neighborhoods? –
George Anderson – Moderator
- Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott Announces “Wal-Mart Jobs and Opportunity
Zones” Initiative – Wal-Mart Stores
- Audio File (MP3) Download: Lee Scott Announced Wal-Mart Jobs and Opportunity Zones –
- Wal-Mart Offers Aid to Rivals – The New York Times (free reg. required)