August 21, 2005

Round Lake Beach

Applied commonsense can be dangerous sometimes; but I don't see what else these consultants could have used when assessing the impact of the new Wal-Mart Supercenter to replace the old WM in Round Lake Beach:

A proposed Wal-Mart super center in Round Lake Beach could make life difficult for one or two local retailers, according to a retail analyst.

The new store, targeted for Route 83 and Monaville Road, will offer a full-service grocery and general merchandise and will likely siphon off customers from the Jewel, Dominick's and Cub Foods stores clustered around the intersection of Rollins Road and Route 83, said John C. Melaniphy, president of Melaniphy & Associates Inc., a Chicago-based retail consultant.

"The super center is going to hurt the supermarkets (because of) Wal-Mart's ability to operate at a cost level so much below everyone else," he said.

Melaniphy's prediction for the Super K-Mart on Rollins Road was even more dire.

"It's going to be history. I'm surprised it's still open," he said. "It's not going to stay a super center."

Mr. Melaniphy lists Wal-Mart on his client page, which is not surprising, as he admits it even when making a hefty charge against Wal-Mart while discussing big-box replacement:
Additional problems arise when a major Big Box like Wal-Mart or Big K relocates and restricts the types of stores that can go into the vacant space. In one instance in which I was involved, Wal-Mart owned their store in a mall and would not permit another major Big Box retailer to take the space.
I'd really love to see the calculations by Wal-Mart executives which demonstrate the profitability of deterring entry from competitors, given that an old store will remain empty.

Posted by Kevin at 9:27 AM

May 26, 2005

Des Moines Hour Limits

Limiting the hours of big boxes but permitting small stores 24 hour operation may not pass legal muster:

Wal-Mart officials Wednesday asked the Dallas County District Court to void the limited business hours contained in the West Des Moines site plan for a proposed superstore.

Ryan Horn, Wal-Mart spokesman, said he hoped the uproar over store hours could be settled before the case goes to trial. The company faces opposition from nearby homeowners who have said traffic and noise from a store open 24 hours a day would disrupt the neighborhood and harm property values.

This week the West Des Moines City Council gave first approval to an ordinance that would limit the hours for big-box retailers, including Wal-Mart. Such stores would be closed from midnight to 6 a.m. daily...

The lawsuit alleges the city exceeded its authority by placing the limited business hours in the site plan. It also says the plan was unconstitutional and the time limit "was an attempt to regulate economic competition contrary to the zoning ordinance purpose of regulating land use."

Posted by Kevin at 9:34 AM

February 5, 2005

Supercenter in Lodi

The company is planning on building a supercenter store in Lodi, California, but a major a stumbling block is the old building which will be across the street from the new store:


As a condition of the permit, the Supercenter's developer would be required to lease at least half of the existing Wal-Mart before the Supercenter can be built.

Now the city wants to rework the building permit to give the Supercenter's developer the option of selling or demolishing the existing store, with the intent that another retailer would reoccupy the property, Lodi leaders say.

A new building would go up if the existing store is razed, Hansen said. "It's not tearing it down and walking away," he said.

Giving developer Darryl Browman more options in the building permit could help ensure the existing property doesn't end up vacant, Hansen added. "My feeling is that we have to see if we can work more closely with the developer in re-tenanting the (current) building. We'll work out the right kind of language."

Browman owns most of the existing Wal-Mart shopping complex and is the developer for the proposed 245,157-square-foot Supercenter at Lower Sacramento Road and Kettleman Lane.

Herum urged the city to make sure Wal-Mart does find a retail tenant for the existing building before the Supercenter opens.

Posted by Bob at 2:02 PM

February 4, 2005

Flyfishing Gear

Over at BoomtownUSA, Jack Schultz has some fine observations of a new WM Supercenter in Idaho:

At the entrance to the new store was the Wal-Mart Fly Shop, the first of its kind in the country. No it�s not a new Fear Factor fad shop! They sell equipment and flies for fly fishing. Eastern Idaho has some of the best fly fishing streams in the world, so selling fly fishing products makes a lot of sense.

I asked Jim Evans, whose official title is merchandising supervisor but who sure looked like the general manager, how they happened to get into selling flies. He told me, �The district manager thought that it might make sense here, so they tried it.� Evans is an avid fisherman who told me that the shop is aimed at first time and intermediate fishermen.

Posted by Kevin at 11:22 AM

January 25, 2005

Comparing WM to a WM Supercenter

How does a Wal-Mart supercenter differ from a regular WM? That's not an easy question to answer:

BAXTER -- The Wal-Mart Super Center on Glory Road opens Wednesday morning.

There are notable differences in the new superstore compared to the "old" Wal-Mart. The 30 check-out lanes include eight self-serve options where customers can scan their own purchases and pay themselves. Customers can use coupons and pay by cash or credit card. Kirk Helmberger, Wal-Mart store manager, said the self check-out lanes have been popular at other stores.

Helmberger, who has been with Wal-Mart for about 15 years, said noticeable changes are wider aisles and much more room compared to the old store that was crowded with merchandise....

The new store features television screens hanging above the aisles in several locations that are part of the Wal-Mart TV network....

Helmberger told staff members he was proud of the work they did in transforming the store from four walls and poles into the finished version with wide, neat aisles, a full grocery store with produce, deli, bakery and a live lobster tank. The lobsters are flown in from Maine....

Independent businesses are inside the superstore -- McDonald's, Regal Nails, PCA Studios, Smart Style salon, and Wal-Mart is operating a Fun Center arcade. The store includes a Tire Lube Express, pharmacy, one-hour photo and a connection center with cell phones and satellite televisions/radios and several service plans, and H&R Block is in the store for the tax season.

Posted by Kevin at 10:52 AM

January 18, 2005

18 Year Old Runs for Board, Likes WM Impact

Occassionally you read stories of high-schoolers running for office. This one is rather more pro-development than I was expecting:

WEST CITY-- Like many 18-year-olds, Christopher Kays will vote for the first time during the upcoming April 5 general election. However, what will separate Kays from other first-time voters is that the very first vote he casts will be for himself....

Kays was quick to answer when asked about his reasons for running and what he hopes to accomplish if elected.

"First of all, I think everybody should be concerned with what is going on in their community, their state and their country," Kays said. "But I want to see West City keep the ball rolling. We just picked up a Wal-Mart Supercenter, but I don't want West City to be known for just that. There is so much land in West City that can be developed for commercial or residential sites; we need to keep moving forward looking at that."

I had to read that twice....

Posted by Kevin at 10:46 AM

November 21, 2004

WM In the News

***Updated 3x***
(here scroll down to *Update 1, 2 & 3*)

Just a quick round up of a few news items concerning or otherwise relating to Wal-Mart in one fashion or another that have come to my attention.

The Los Angeles Times published an interesting article within today's edition of how a WM Supercenter is changing shopping habits in the Coachella Valley, as well as -- for better or for worse -- all the implications such big box stores brings along with it of course: Wal-Mart Effect Moves Into the Grocery Aisle.

Elsewhere, the Dallas-Fortworth Star-Telegram has what is becoming within the news media lately a very common place report of how and why: Stores look to counter Wal-Mart effect over holidays.

In other news, this morning's edition of The New York Post reports (here):

Wal-Mart heiress Paige Laurie got rich off "Everyday Low Prices" � but she allegedly paid top dollar every day to hire a fellow student to do her homework.

[...]


Read the entire story, here.

In addition, for more along the same storyline, ...

..., a quick search found that Friday's (November 19, 2004) edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch included an article within their sports news section that reported how (here):
[emphasis mine]

The daughter of Blues owner and University of Missouri benefactor Bill Laurie paid her roommate at the University of Southern California about $20,000 over three years to write papers and complete other class assignments for her, according to a report on ABC's news- magazine "20/20."

Elena Martinez said she was Paige Laurie's roommate freshman year at the school in Los Angeles. Martinez said it wasn't long before she was writing reports and papers for the daughter of businessman Bill Laurie and Nancy Laurie, an heir to the Wal-Mart empire. In return, Paige Laurie paid Martinez hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars at a time.

[...]


In my opinion, this particular article (above) from the Post-Dispatch is a must-read (here).

For the complete story as reported by ABC News 20/20 however, make certain to check out [emphasis mine]:

Big Cheats on Campus

Cheating Has Never Been Easier -- Especially for the Wealthiest Students

[...]

Student Says Heiress Paid Her $20,000 to Do Much of Her Coursework
[page 2]

[...]

... Paige Laurie is a granddaughter of one of the founders of Wal-Mart. Her mother has more than $2 billion. Her father owns the St. Louis Blues hockey team.

[...]


Read about it, here (jump to page 2, here).

Of course it would be good to hear from the other side concerning all of this, but they're not talking, so we may never know what truly took place or not.

If this were to prove to be true however, it sounds to me like Elena Martinez and (Elizabeth) Paige Laurie should be trading places as well as fortunes; since the former did a lot of the work and the latter got all the credit as well as the degree as a result and, of which her parents were so proud, private matter or not (of course that will never happen).

By the way, views of the Paige Sports Arena are available, here (the bottom view is a live Webcam view of the outside of the arena) [via chrysanthalbee is me, here (via Yoni @ College Basketball, here)].

While the Webcam shots (both the one frozen in time as well as the live view) are worth checking out, the one that is *most definitely* the item to check out is the excellent image or, rather, an exclusive artist�s rendering of the new facility available on the Phog Blog, here, which nails it perfectly.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and, this particular one is priceless!


*Update 1*

In more current news on the subject and, in what is a rather quick turnaround -- especially given all the non-denial denials from the Lauries and their most loyal supporters, etc.: In scandal�s wake, Lauries give up naming rights for arena [via Columbia Daily Tribune (Tuesday, November 23, 2004); initial heads up (of this first item in this particular update) provided via Phog blog, here].

[...]

The family transferred the rights to the University of Missouri, the university announced late this afternoon. The Board of Curators is to meet later to decide whether to change the name and, if so, what to call it.

MU Athletic Director Mike Alden said the Lauries contacted the university today to discuss relinquishing the naming rights.

[...]

In addition, from the same article, regarding Paige Laurie's alledged cheating at the University of Southern California:

[...]

Paige Laurie graduated from USC in the spring with a bachelor�s degree in communication. USC said Monday it would investigate Martinez�s claims and said there was precedent for revoking an issued diploma.

[...]


This is also yet another quick turnaround from USC's previously reported initial stance on the matter.

Read the article in full, here.

The Kansas City Star has a brief article devoted mostly to the developing story at USC, here [requires free registration].


*Update 2*

While doing some blog searching I came across a post on FWNED that includes one of the best pictures so far of Paige Laurie, this one with her sitting with her father, here. Yet the title of the post alone is worth checking it out however.

Then I just came across a recent post blogged by Ami, a free spirit and thinker, whom reports (here):

Interesting...

I tuned into some local news tonight (I'll talk about the reason for that later, when the time is more appropriate), and saw a story about a girl being accused of cheating at USC. I wasn't paying too much attention at first, but the name sounded familiar and the face looked familiar... Paige Laurie... Yes! She was in my class! It was Sarah Banet-Weiser's Children and Media. She was the typical Mercedez-driving, Louis Vuitton-loving, dumb USC blond sorostitute (sorority + prostitute), but I didn't know she was the heiress to Wal-Mart, and she had some sports arena named after her in Missouri. She paid her freshman roommate $20,000 in 4 years to have her papers written and other projects completed. And she graduated with a 3.5 GPA.

[...]


Read her post in full, here.

It is certainly a small world, especially within the blogosphere.

Definitely interesting ..., true enough Ami!


*Update 3*

As a final update to provide both a follow-up and closure to this particular news item:

USA Today featured an Associated Press article on its Website Wednesday (November 24, 2004) reporting, prior to it actually becoming official, that: College removes name of Wal-Mart heiress on arena.

On Friday (November 26, 2004), once it was official, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article announcing: Turning the Paige: It's now Mizzou Arena.


*Note*: Made several edits and changes as well as a few additions for the purposes of clarification and readability, along with providing updated as well as related information; added an update with a follow-up of more current news; added update 2 with some good blog finds, etc.; added update 3 to post a final news update: last updated on Saturday, November 27, 2004 at 1:09 PM [EST].

Posted by Morgan at 11:31 PM

November 12, 2004

Zoning: Power, Influence, and Bribery

George Mason University economist Russell Roberts notes the ease with which the Washington Post ignores the real reason for making it harder for supercenters to open in Montgomery County: shakedown by politicians:

I also like how the Council didn't ban big-box groceries outright. That leaves open the door for special begging, pleading and lobbying. It really highlights what smart growth is about�legislator as gate-keeper. If you'd like in, love me enough or pay me enough and I'll consider it. Maybe. It's an outrageous way to run a jurisdiction in a democracy. It makes property use and property rights subject to the whim of legislators. What a sad day for the rule of law.

Posted by Kevin at 10:55 AM

November 3, 2004

No WM in Windsor, CO

As reported here in June, Windsor, CO was hotly debating WM Supercenter. Well, a meeting was held, and the town board has rejected it:

Windsor's Town Board on Monday rejected a rezoning plan that would have allowed Wal-Mart to build a 186,000-square-foot supercenter just west of King Soopers and Safeway stores.
After an emotional public hearing that included comments from 61 people in three hours, the board rejected the hotly contested proposal by a vote of 4-3.

About three-fourths of the citizens who spoke at the hearing opposed the rezoning, citing traffic and low wages as issues. Many voiced safety concerns because of the proposed store's close proximity to a local elementary school.

Others worried that Wal-Mart would put local merchants out of business, drive away local grocers and create low-paying jobs with few benefits.

"Wal-Mart is not a good company," said Sara Hoff, an employee at the Windsor Safeway during the hearing. "It doesn't pay well, and it doesn't pay good benefits."

But not everyone opposed Wal-Mart.

"I'd rather put my kids in the car to drive a block away than to drive 13 miles to get a pair of shoes," said Bill Bray, a Windsor resident.

The 23-acre site, located north of Main Street between 16th and 17th streets, once was zoned as commercial property until a developer rezoned the property as residential property in 2002.

But with the recent addition of a Safeway and King Soopers to the town, Wal-Mart began to show interest in the fast-growing Windsor market.

Many people are just relieved the entire debate is over.
If you listen hard enough, you just might hear a collective sigh in the Windsor community.
After nine months of Wal-Mart talk in Main Street shops, yellow signs lining neighborhood streets and passionate public debates, a decision on whether the world�s largest retailer can build a supercenter west of town will come Monday night.

Of course, the unexpected is always possible. But Wal-Mart and Windsor town officials both say this time, they are ready for a decision to be made.

Thanks to Jim Tayler for the heads up.

Posted by Kevin at 5:34 AM

August 17, 2004

State of California Getting into the Act

On the heels of Los Angeles passing an ordinance to block supercenter stores, Democrats in the state capital now look to pass a law that would require an economic impact report:


Under SB 1056, superstores could not be approved by cities or counties before completion of an extensive economic impact report that would be bankrolled by the applicant.

The report would assess the supercenter's impact on other local stores, wages and benefits, demand for retail space, public revenues, provision of public services, traffic circulation and other issues.

As in the situation in Los Angeles, it won't be hard for opponents to find "victims" of the company.

Thanks to Daniel Weintraub at the Sacremento Bee

Posted by Bob at 7:14 PM

August 12, 2004

A new twist in the Wal-Mart wars

(Here's a follow-up to Bob's earlier post). Featured in today's Christian Science Monitor (here):

USA > Economy
from the August 12, 2004 edition

In a nod to small retailers, Los Angeles is planning to make it much harder for 'big box' stores to expand.

By Daniel B. Wood | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

LOS ANGELES � Proponents say it may become a national model for handling skirmishes over so-called "big box" stores moving into economically fragile communities.

Opponents call it another thinly veiled attempt by pro-labor legislators to stand in the way of stores like Wal-Mart and Costco, fearing the stores' low wages and low costs.

Still others see the new ordinance, given initial approval this week by the Los Angeles City Council, as more evidence of a deadlock between America's largest employer, Wal-Mart, and its largest state, California, over the store's future and its policies.

The ordinance, voted on Wednesday, says simply that developers of superstores (those over 100,000 square feet) must do cost/benefit analyses to assess their economic impacts. Beyond the current practice of "conditional use" permits - which hinge on parking, land, and pollution impacts - applicants would have to assess a new list of controversial concerns, using approved but independent consultants.

[...]

Read the entire article, here.

Posted by Morgan at 8:57 AM

June 15, 2004

Keeping WM Out of Montgomery County, MD

Don't even try to argue that this proposed legislation is pro-consumer, or is intended to curb sprawl, or will save a small town from annihilation:

Giant and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 are prime advocates of the proposal before the Montgomery County Council. The measure sponsored by County Executive Douglas M. Duncan would impose tough new zoning restrictions on stores that are larger than 120,000 square feet and devote at least 10 percent of their floor space to groceries....

It would exempt stores that do not sell food, such as most Target stores and Home Depot, and it would exempt club membership stores such as Costco.

The article does relate this neat factoid:
FTN Midwest found that within a year of opening, a Wal-Mart supercenter takes 11 percent of grocery store business within three miles.

Posted by Kevin at 2:20 PM

June 2, 2004

Wm Endangering Wisonsin Too?

An editorialist in the Madison Capital Times believes that Wisconsin is endangered by Wal-Mart supercenters.

Other states, including Wisconsin, were less vigilant. Massive Wal-Mart stores have been allowed to open on the edges of small towns and, in quick order, the company has used cut-rate prices and cut-throat tactics to become the dominant retailer in those communities, depressing wages, undermining locally owned businesses and leaving once vibrant Main Streets pockmarked with empty storefronts.
Oh my! Empty storefronts and cut-throat tactics ! The world is coming to an end! Am I to take cut-throat literally or figuratively? Either way, the editorial writer doesn't actually prove anything. I could just as easily write that the editorial writer uses cut-throat tactics keep young ambitious writers from the top newspaper management. And please, next time, bother to tell us whether or not real wages or total compensation have actually decreased in Wisconsin, or at least how he knows--and can prove to others--how WM is depressing wages.!

Posted by Kevin at 6:52 AM

May 24, 2004

Conversions or New Sites

Excellent article in the Chicago Tribune (rr), with interesting data points. First about potential shifts in store size to meet urban regulations:

Anticipating space constraints and potential zoning problems as it expands, Wal-Mart opened a 99,000-square-foot prototype "Supercenter" earlier this year in Tampa, to see how a smaller format would fare. A Wal-Mart Supercenter sells food and general merchandise.
Next about historical and future growth patterns:
So far, Wal-Mart's chief strategy for developing Supercenters has been to convert its existing discount stores, which sell only general merchandise. A 2003 report by William Blair & Co., a Chicago investment firm, shows that conversions accounted for 70 percent of the 827 Supercenters opened from 1995 to 2001.
There is also a multi-level store in LA:

Wal-Mart has been willing to build multilevel stores, but it prefers to stick with single-level versions.

"It makes more sense to begin this way than to shoehorn ourselves into an area where property is more costly," spokesman John Bisio said.

Peter Kanellos, Wal-Mart's California spokesman, said the company opened its first and only three-level store a year ago in the Baldwin Hills section of Los Angeles. The store includes "cartveyors"--basically elevators for carts.

Nationally, Wal-Mart also is testing store formats of 40,000 square feet or smaller in other communities. But Wall Street isn't impressed by the idea.

"They're too small to really move the needle, and they won't have the same returns as Supercenters," Dreher said

Posted by Kevin at 10:16 AM

May 13, 2004

Dan Drezner on WM (Again)

Dan Drezner points to Steve Chapman's Op-Ed in the Chicago Tribune.

Does the company resist unions? Sure. But that doesn't exactly make it unusual, since 92 percent of private-sector workers in the United States lack a union. Does it hurt small businesses? Only by offering consumers goods they want at lower prices than established retailers....
An interesting comments thread is forming at Dan's post. But I have some comments I'd like to share here.

Let me make this clear: WM is the cutting edge of creative destruction, and in the here-and-now creative destruction makes winners out of some and losers out of others. But in the long run has made all of us far wealthier than we would have been if we tried to stop it or slow it down.

WM--and the people who are willing to work for it-- are threatening the wages of unionized grocers everywhere. WMs entry into food sales is likely to drive some unionized competitors out of business. In the long run, WM is likely to convert many unionized grocery jobs into cheaper, non-union, positions.

Shoppers will benefit through lower prices--raising their real wages. WM gives the same goods to the end users for less, meaning more is left to be spent on other goods and services.

Keeping grocers unionized not only has the effect of keeping real wages lower for consumers, but prevents consumers from spending those higher incomes on other goods.

What will happen to labor when WM enters the grocery business in cities? Most current unionized grocery employees will see their artificially high real wages stay the same or rise, but at far smaller rates. New unionized grocery employees will see noticeably lower starting salaries and benefits than their more experienced colleages earned starting out.

WM will convert many full-time unionized grocery jobs into entry-level, senior-citizen or part-time positions.

It will likely make those considering becoming union grocers turn to other occupations that pay more--for instance, nursing. The full-time, middle-class jobs will appear elsewhere in the economy--not in retail.

Right now, we see the middle class unionized jobs in grocers; we don't see the middle class healthcare and professional service jobs that will not be created if grocers stay unionized.

On net, how many more "middle-class" jobs are sustained by grocer unionization? I can't answer that completely, but I suspect that unionization lowers the total number of middle-class jobs. Others will, respectfully or otherwise, disagree.

WM competing with grocers is neither a completely bad or good thing, but it is how the economy grows and channels labor into its most profitable uses.

Why should all jobs provide incomes to support a family of four? Is it not OK for there to be jobs for those just starting out? Is there to be no premium in pay and benefits for those more skilled and experienced?

Posted by Kevin at 2:33 PM

May 9, 2004

Rookie grocery-shopping at a SuperCenter

On the way home from the airport this past Friday, I stopped at the Wal-Mart SuperCenter in south Carson City to get some groceries. While I've been in SuperCenters before, this was the first time I've ever grocery-shopped at a Wal-Mart.

Nice things:


  • the aisles in the grocery section were wide and not filled with crap, and the lighting seemed better. (This may have been either because of brighter lights, or more open floor space and lower shelves, or because it was a beautiful day outside and that came through the skylights. I think a combination of the first two.)

  • The deli section was better stocked than I expected. Basic, but not much different than a standard suburban grocery store.

  • Prices.

Not so nice things:


  • The selection of fresh items (vegetables, fish, fruit) was pretty small, and didn't look all that great. It wasn't terrible, just mediocre. They were all out of grape tomatoes, pretty thin on the cherry tomatoes, and their Roma tomatoes were a little picked-over and beaten-up.

  • It was not well integrated into the rest of the store. Basically, the store was a regular Wal-Mart, with a food section stuck to the right side. The rest of the Wal-Mart was laid out like a regular Wal-Mart. So, food was to the right, soap and laundry detergent was to the back right, paper towels in front of the soap. But right next to the food was the clothing section. To get to, say kitchenware and utensils, you have to cross the clothing section, passing by the furniture. Toothpaste, shampoo, etc, are in the front-left of the store, so again, you have to go through or around the entire clothing section. In a store the size of a SuperCenter, this is a real pain. It doesn't help that once you leave the grocery section, you're piloting your cart thru the narrow-aisle obstacle-course part of the store as well.

    I don't know if all SuperCenters are like this. This one is pretty new, though, less than a year old.


Surprising psychological effect:


  • It was quite liberating shopping for groceries at Wal-Mart, compared with going to a Safeway. At a normal grocery store, you tend to look out for the specials and avoid buying things that aren't on special, or buy up extra when something is on sale. You think "Hey, it's Wal-Mart, it's not going to get much cheaper" instead of "Maybe it's on special at Albertson's," or "Should I buy four of them now, or just get one and come back when it's on sale?"

    I don't check the grocery store flyers to figure out every week who has the best price for what, but growing up my mother did so, and I know that many family shoppers do. They read all the flyers, compare items, and makes trips to different stores and stock up on items on special that week at each place. There's quite a bit of time and effort involved in figuring all this out, but it can save a lot of money on a grocery bill vs just shopping at one store. Shopping at Wal-Mart changes that calculation. While you can probably still do better by picking through all the grocery store flyers (at least for some goods), the relative advantage is decreased. You can get most of your savings without doing all the work, just going to one place. For a lot of people, getting all that time back is a nice little luxury that Wal-Mart gives them.


Oh, and one more thing I noticed: Seems now you can actually order and pay for McDonald's meals (from a limited list of items and combos) at the Wal-Mart checkout stand, then pick it up at the in-store McD's counter. I don't really see this taking off.

Posted by gkanapathy at 11:16 PM