August 11, 2004

Wal-Mart Targets DC

WM is set to invade DC:

The store would be a conventional Wal-Mart, not one of its supercenters -- the 145,000- to 210,000-square-foot stores that include full grocery operations and thus compete directly with unionized supermarkets like Giant and Safeway....

A store in the District would be the latest step in Wal-Mart's expansion into America's cities, which had largely been passed over in the company's remarkable growth from a small chain in Arkansas to an international retail behemoth. Urban locations, with their expensive real estate, complicated zoning restrictions and often strong labor unions, have been one of Wal-Mart's last frontiers as it seeks an ever larger share of America's shopping dollars....

Until four years ago, the 23-acre Brentwood site was a derelict lot for impounded cars surrounded largely by townhouses and apartment buildings inhabited by middle-class and poor residents. City officials cited its development into a bustling retail center as one of their top achievements in the pursuit of retail in the District. Its Home Depot draws shoppers from all parts of the District and from nearby Prince George's County, according to city officials....

"The community does not want a Wal-Mart," said Dominic Moulden, executive director of Manna Community Development Corp., who called the company's business model "immoral." The outfit was part of the development team on the site but backed out earlier this summer when it learned discussions were underway with Wal-Mart.

Manna, a nonprofit group that works to develop long-depressed D.C. neighborhoods, is worried that a Wal-Mart would drag down wages in the neighborhood and drive smaller, locally owned stores out of business. "We think it's wiser to hold out for a better company," Moulden said.

For unions, the arrival of Wal-Mart in the District could have a symbolic as well as practical impact. The District-based United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents grocery workers, has blamed Wal-Mart for the loss of thousands of member jobs.

"This is not an employer you want anywhere, particularly in the nation's capital," said C. James Lowthers, president of the union's Washington area chapter.

Posted by Kevin on August, 11 2004 at 04:09 PM