Walmart Searches For New York Location–Public Hearing Tomorrow

Before opening a store in Chicago’s South Side the company also faced some opposition, especially from small business owners who feared the huge store would choke off their own

[Business News]

Walmart says locating a store in New York City would benefit consumers as well as small businesses–rather than harming them.

The company is currently looking for a location in New York’s five boroughs, company officials say. This would be Walmart’s third attempt to make inroads in New York City.

The international mega-store hopes that during tomorrow’s Public Hearing before The New York City Council, there will be many sympathetic voices. In January, a poll commissioned by Gotham Government Relations, which represented the interests of small businesses said 56% of 300 small businesses surveyed believe Walmart’s presence would
have a negative impact on small retailers, while 32% did not believe it would have such an impact, according to a media report.

In a meeting with New York-based publishers yesterday, Phillip Keene,  senior manager for corporate communications at Walmart was eager to tick of  what he calls Walmart’s several positives. He said Walmart offered better prices over a whole range of consumer items; that the company provided job-training and jobs in the areas where the stores locate; the company purchased goods and services from local merchants and vendors; that the company provided “fresh and affordable food”; that the company gave grants to local community organizations through its philanthropic arm; and, that by locating in a neighborhood, smaller retailers benefitted from the additional traffic drawn by the store.

Company officials won’t attend the hearing but Walmart has sent information packages to City Councilmembers to bolster their case, Keene says.

Keene disputes the oft-reported criticism about Walmart’s wages and employees’ health benefit packages. “Our wages are the same or better than our competitors–union or non union,” Keene says. “Our benefits package is good.” He says part-timers are also eligible for some coverage and that full-timers get coverage and vacation time.

Walmart commissioned a survey from pollster Doug Schoen that indicated 70% of those surveyed wanted the company to locate in New York City, Keene says. He adds that support among African Americans stood at 77% and at 80% among Latinos. “Customers want us to be here,” he says.

Before opening a store in Chicago’s South Side the company also faced some opposition, especially from small business owners who feared the huge store would choke off their own businesses. Since opening the store, the extra traffic has resulted in the relocation of about 22 new businesses near the Walmart, Keene says.

Walmart last year spent $9.2 billion with “minority and women-owned
businesses,” Keene says. “We buy the most and sell the most local
produce from site to site,” he says.

The company also partners with small suppliers, who can sell to just
one store and eventually expand to others. Keene noted that Glory Foods,
which is Black-owned, started supplying a handful of stores but now
deals with 900 stores.

What’s more, each store can also tailor some supplies based on demands
of the local markets. A Walmart in North Bergen, in New Jersey, an area
with high concentration of Latino residents, sells plantains; another
Walmart, in Hilton Head, South Carolina, carries fresh collard greens,
Keene says. “We know that we want to address the opportunities that are
out there,” he says. “We want to be here. Folks who live in New York
want us here.”

The company made $6 billion in purchases from New York based suppliers,
Keene says. Out of a total of $430 in philanthropic giving to community
and non-profit organization nationwide, $9 million was to New York-based
groups, he says.

New Yorkers last year spent about $165 million with the company, Walmart officials say. New York shoppers currently travel to locations in New Jersey and on Long Island, or shop online.

Construction of a typical store, which is about 120,000 square feet and employs an average of 350 people, takes about 10 to 12 months, the company says. The company hires workers from within the local area where it locates; 70% of the managers started off as sales associates, Keene says. Winning bids are typically asked by the company to designate a proportion of construction work to unionized workers, he says.

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