Saturday, April 10, 2004

Sears Grand 

Who can possibly compete with WM Supercenters? Sears is willing to try:
Sears has a game plan -- it's called Sears Grand. The new store concept is freestanding stores away from the malls.

The stores are larger, ranging between 150,000 and more than 200,000 square feet in selling space, larger than the current selling space at its existing stores of between 90,000 and 95,000 square feet...

Sears Grand will also sell additional products such as milk, cookies and soda, beauty and health-care products, DVDs and greeting cards....

George Whalin, retail consultant and president of Retail Management, agrees. "Sears wants to be Wal-Mart so bad they can taste it, although the company hasn't had great success with innovation," he said...

Unlike a Wal-Mart supercenter, which sells fresh food, dairy and meat, the food assortment at Sears Grand is expected to be limited mostly to dry foods like chips and other snacks.

Nevertheless, Wal-Mart said it is taking notice of Sears' latest venture. "We're always looking over our shoulder and watching our competition," said Tom Williams, spokesman for Wal-Mart.

They're starting slowly:
Sears launched the Grand concept at its first pilot store in West Jordan, Utah last year. Three more pilot stores will join the Sears Grand family in similarly burgeoning areas including Las Vegas July 31, southern California, Oct. 31 and Austin, Texas, sometime in 2005.
Goldman Sachs has its doubts about the overall impact of the Grand concept on Sears bottom line:
Sears won't reap any benefit from the strategy in the near term. “For now, with about 870 legacy stores, Sears’ fortunes are securely tied to the mall,” where sales have been weaker than other department store chains, Mr. Strachan said in his report.

Earlier this month Sears Chairman and CEO Alan Lacy acknowledged tough competition from off-mall retailers, and forecast weak 2004 growth as Sears continues to revamp stores and improve merchandise selection.

Hide the kids, here comes Wal-Mart 

Good professional satire should be funny--playing, teasing, and dancing around the clear truth. But Andrew Lisa deomstrates the converse--satire is stale and dry when based on lies:
Vineland's soul will soon be sold to the devil of merchandising...

What's so bad about a second Wal-Mart, you wonder?...

Wal-Mart has made a fortune... by taking nice, cozy little towns, milking them for all they're worth, and leaving an empty, lifeless shell in its wake.

It's easy to let the lure of convenience and low prices distract you from the fact that you're signing your neighborhood's death warrant...

[I]t will suck from your town every ounce of character, originality and local enterprise that it ever had.

Remember that downtown revitalization you've been reading so much about?

Good luck with that.

I'm sure outside businesses will just be lining up to set up shop a stone's throw away from the very store that ran them out of the last town they were in.

And I have three words for you business owners who run a shop that has had local roots for a generation or three: See you later....

The good news is a few dozen crummy, minimum-wage jobs will be coming to town. The bad news is they'll all be going to illegal Eastern European immigrants named Vladi....

Not only could you die and decompose in the aisle without a single one of the zombies who work there stopping to help you, but the checkout process is like a Russian bread line.

Palestinians experience shorter waits and friendlier help at Israeli checkpoints.

WM's Impact on Downtowns: Millville 

In WM, Threat or Windfall?, Lisa Grzyboski does a good job of showing WM's impact on downtown Millville, New Jersey. More importantly, she frames the story around the opportunities this represents for local communities and honest retailers who compete with WM in the marketplace through superior service--not in the political arena through superior deception:
Business at the High Street shop started declining as malls and discount department stores entered the area. When Wal-Mart rolled into Millville in the mid-1990s, the writing was on the wall -- Steelman just couldn't compete.

"I couldn't buy the cameras for what the mass merchandisers were selling them for," Wettstein said. So he reacted by changing his store's focus....

While Steelman and some other downtown businesses survived the onslaught of discount retailers, others didn't, ultimately clearing the way for a renaissance driven by the city's new Glasstown Arts District....

Redevelopment isn't just about filling up vacant land and storefronts, but about doing it creatively and making sure it's a long-term solution....

Millville has such a plan in place. The results have been so positive that the city is actively recruiting big-box stores without fear of what that might do to downtown, said Don Ayers, Millville's economic development director.

"Our downtown now has done what it should do, which is find its own niche," he said. "Therefore, it's not in direct competition with big-box retailers."

More national chains mean more sales tax revenue for Millville, which also has a UEZ [Urban Enterprise Zone]. A substantial amount of UEZ revenue goes right into the Glasstown Arts District, and a good deal of that money is coming from Wal-Mart, the city's largest UEZ contributor.

"Wal-Mart is very important to the entire city of Millville," said Marianne Lods, the Arts District coordinator, noting its tax dollars are largely responsible for funding Arts District loans, facade improvement grants and marketing campaigns. "I don't see it at all as a detriment."

Besides, she said, there's always going to be a segment of the population that prefers unique or unusual stores and personal service.

Richard Hill offered a perfect example Thursday morning when he pulled up to Howell Hardware at 26 E. Main St. in his wheelchair and rapped on the store's front door.

The Millville shop's owner, Greg Erber, looked up from shelves he was stocking, walked to the door, asked Hill what he wanted and got him the 20-pound bag of potting soil he requested. Hill, a regular customer, stayed outside the entire time.

When Erber started working at the hardware store 33 years ago, he quickly learned about customer service -- and kept those same principles when he took over the business in 1981. When someone asks where to find an item, you drop what you're doing to help them, Erber said. When the store doesn't have a product, you locate it in the catalog and ask the customer if they would like to order it, he added.

"I would say service is our biggest thing," said Jon Erber, the owner's son. "You can't get good service at those other places."

Friday, April 09, 2004

Further Reading 

An article I need to get to later:

The Democratic Socialists compare WM wages unfavorably to those of Henry Ford's workers.

WM DOESN'T take no for an answer. 

According to Ruth Rosen, that is. In Oct. 2003, Ms. Rosen decided to believe whatever the AFL-CIO told her:
Wal-Mart, for example, has already pushed some two dozen national supermarket chains into bankruptcy during the last 10 years by paying poverty-level wages, offering unaffordable health benefits and underselling other big box stores by importing goods made by cheap foreign labor. The average Wal-Mart grocery worker earns $8.50 an hour, which results in a below poverty-level annual income of $14,000. By contrast, a union worker at a supermarket earns $17 an hour, plus health benefits, which allows working families to share a slice of the American Dream and keeps taxpayers from picking up the tab for their health care.
Can she substantiate any of these claims?

Hat Tip: Jim Sparkman

WM Vote in Kansas? 

The Journal-World reports that Mayor Mike Rundle of Lawrence, Kansas, thinks that an Inglewood-type vote cannot occur in Kansas:

On the possibility of a yes-no community vote on a Wal-Mart for Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. "My short answer is no ... I'm not sure, but Kansas statutes may specifically exclude putting planning issues such as this one to a public vote."


A 300 member group, trying to stop the expansion of WM into Kilbuck, PA, has been emboldened by the Inglewood vote:
Communities First! members were encouraged by Tuesday's defeat of a planned Wal-Mart Supercenter in Inglewood, Calif....

Kilbuck officials have backed the Wal-Mart project. If ASC [the developer] can acquire a pollution discharge permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection and an asbestos removal permit from the Allegheny County Health Department, construction can begin, opponents say.

To open, Wal-Mart still would have to acquire a traffic permit from PennDOT and gain approval of a sewer plan from the DEP.

"We worry that the developer would build 'at risk' and force the development down our throats," said Mary Louise Fowkes, of Emsworth, a Communities First! board member.

Extorting "Charity" 

In Gilroy, CA the City Council required that WM "donate" $50,000 a year to charity in order to approve a Supercenter.
The national retail giant will make community contributions in the amount of $50,000 a year...

Under this agreement, a special board will determine which charity gets the grant each year. The board will consist of the store manager, two Council members and three other community leaders appointed by the Council.


There is a campaign to get WM to take better care of its fish. Really.

Search Costs 

WM has always sought the most profitable places to put supercenters. Facing community resistance, it just includes political cost in the equation:
Speaking in Little Rock Wednesday, Wal-Mart Chief Executive Officer Lee Scott said the world's largest retailer won't let opposition in a few areas slow its massive expansion plans....

Scott said the company is willing to lose the occasional vote during its expansion.

An Honest WM Reporter 

In the Porterville Recorder, Roger Phelps has a very good two-part series on WM. [1,2]. From part 2:
"Assuming no change in management, we can assume low prices will continue, at least in the short term," said Jim Watt, vice president for real estate for the Save Mart grocery chain. "Things do change. In addition, low prices come at a cost. With wages at or below the poverty level, you qualify for public services.

"A low wage means you'll have trouble owning a home, or buying a car," Watt continued. "Wal-Mart workers won't put much back into the community - they'll just subsist as best they can...."
We've heard all that before, but we rarely hear about this:
A raft of lawsuits against Wal-Mart projects don't really represent broad public concern, although they might seem to, said Ben Ennis, chief executive officer of Ennis Homes of Porterville. Ennis Homes is developing the 607,500-square-foot Riverwalk Marketplace Shopping Center in Porterville. The Wal-Mart supercenter would be the primary anchor for the retail development.

"Call Jim Watt and ask him if Save Mart is bankrolling the lawsuits," Ennis said. "Wal-Mart has been targeted by unions."

Watt declined to say whether Save Mart bankrolls anti-Wal-Mart suits.

The Media & WM 

Ira Simmons goes a little over the top, but is still worth reading:

the press also continually ignores environmental studies that claim that any additional traffic that a Superstore brings is offset by less traffic at stand-alone groceries. Another laughable media claim in Inglewood was that a super sized Wal-Mart would increase sprawl. Ladies and Gentlemen: Los Angeles County--especially in the Inglewood/El Segundo area near Los Angeles International Airport--is totally sprawled out!

Silly War on WM 

Rich Lowry:

How everyday low prices violate civil rights is a mystery....

All across America, shoppers have voted with their cash and charge cards. Almost a third of all disposable diapers and hair products are purchased at Wal-Mart. No other store sells more groceries, toys or furniture. This is a boon for lower-income Americans who spend a disproportionate amount of their income on retail goods. As a Federal Reserve economist has said, "Wal-Mart is the greatest thing that ever happened to low-income Americans."

If Wal-Mart seems unstoppable, there is one force that will be its undoing, and it's not angry protests. Instead, it is the market. Eventually, some retailer will be more nimble and cunning than even Wal-Mart, and it will get -- as all businesses in America do -- its own capitalist comeuppance.

No sir, the one force that will stop WM is the steadily rising real incomes of the poor.

WM as Part of Mixed-Use Plan 

If you can't use the political process to exclude WM entirely, at least you can use it to support your own vision:

A Wal-Mart supercenter is just part of a large mixed-use project under development in Eden that could create $20 million in new construction in the next two years.

Osborne Co. Inc., a development and construction company located in Eden, is the impetus behind the project, which features a 98-unit apartment complex, a new church for Eden Presbyterian Church and medical office space in the form of an expansion of Morehead Hospital in addition to the previously announced plans for a Wal-Mart.

Shhhh!!! Don't Mention WM 

How long can you go without mentioning WM? The developers of one in Deptford, New Jersey can go at least four hours:
There's an elephant in the room and its name is Wal-Mart.

During a four-hour planning board hearing Wednesday night on a proposed Wal-Mart and Sam's Club shopping center, no one from the developer or his legion of attorneys, engineers and other advisers mentioned the Arkansas retailer by name.

Communities Should Welcome WM 

Edwin A. Locke, of the Ayn Rand Institute, in the Desert Dispatch:
Wal-Mart is especially popular among low-income shoppers who cannot afford the prices of the more upscale stores. It has put other stores out of business, but that is the way capitalism works. The automobile replaced the horse and buggy. Sound motion picture replaced the silents.

No one has a "right" to business success or a "right" to be protected from competitors through government intervention. One only has a right to try to compete through voluntary trade. In a free economy, companies that offer the best value for the dollar win and the losers invest their money elsewhere.

It is also true that Wal-Mart pays lower wages than many unionized stores. But it must offer a market wage or risk its employees going elsewhere, and it deals with employees on a voluntary basis. Those who do not like its terms are free to do business elsewhere.

This makes the company especially hated by "organized labor," such as the grocery unions....

There is only one morally proper way to keep Wal-Mart out of any community: don't patronize its stores. If Wal-Mart cannot make money in a given location, it will either not move there or will close the store


David Brooks in the NYT:

WalMart, a productivity powerhouse, gives middle class folks access to great products at great prices. It also decimates small merchants and contributes to the uglification of American suburbia.

Does a WM decimate merchants more than a Target and a Home Depot cocktail? Note that WM doesn't decimate in the now common sense--i.e. destroy or kill a large part of--but it probably does in the literal sense--i.e. To take the tenth part of.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Resistance in OR

In Oregon, some more resistance to WM, aided by the usual suspects:

eople in the Oregon towns of Hillsboro, Oregon City and Hood River have blocked or delayed expansion plans by Wal-Mart. The company also faces opposition in Salem, La Grande and Central Point.... Community activist Al Norman believes the backlash comes from Wal-Mart's shift to building the bigger supercenters and unwillingness to work with local communities.

"I think Wal-Mart is pushing the envelope," Norman said. "I'm finding people who know enough about Wal-Mart and don't like having stores that are four times the size of a football field shoved down their throats."

Amy Hill, Wal-Mart spokeswoman, calls such characterizations as overblown. She said it's not communities, but a minority of opponents driven by unions that represent grocery workers.

"It's a special interest group," she said. "It's also not that widespread."

Norman successfully fought Wal-Mart's attempt in 1993 to build a store in his hometown of Greenfield, Mass. The victory was considered an oddity, but Norman has since become a consultant for small and big cities across the country trying to beat back the company.

Some of us don't like Norman being shoved down our throats.

Heinz vs. WM


Heinz endowment supports anti-WM activists:

The Heinz Endowments has given $36,000... nearly two-thirds of the $56,000 Communities First! has raised so far.

Communities First! also has hired the Tides Center of Western Pennsylvania to manage its finances and handle administrative duties. The Heinz Endowments channeled $25,000 of its donation to Communities First through Tides....

Small business owners want to trap their customers:

Merchants such as Yvonne Fondi, who opened Fondi's Fish and Poultry Mart three years ago in Sewickley, worry the store would lure away customers.

"I am opposed to what Wal-Mart is about," Fondi said. "It is a store that has everything and specializes in nothing." Wal-Mart's presence could imperil bustling commercial districts from Avalon to Leetsdale, said Margaret Marshall, owner of the Penguin Book Shop, a fixture in Sewickley since 1929. She pointed to the Sewickley Hardware Store, which closed last year, as an example of how big-box stores can affect Main Street merchants.

"It was a victim of Wal-Mart, Lowe's and Home Depot," said Marshall.

Among Wal-Mart's critics is Teresa Heinz Kerry, chairman of the Heinz Endowments and wife of Sen. John Kerry, the likely Democratic presidential nominee. She came under fire last month when she criticized the retailer, saying its stores "destroy communities."

This blog catalogues opinion about WM.

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