Chicago Wal-Mart Update: Mom-and-Pops Invited
NY TIMES -- Stung by criticism that their megastores shutter mom-and-pop shops, Wal-Mart officials are offering to rent space in the lobby of a new Chicago store to neighborhood businesses. Wal-Mart’s tenants already include a dog groomer at a store in north suburban Zion and an Uncle Remus fried chicken outlet in its only Chicago store, on the West Side.
The company is promising to expand that practice at a proposed South Side location, inviting aldermen and other leaders to recommend barbers, manicurists, banks, fast-food chains and other businesses that would give the store some local flavor.
The West Side Wal-Mart stocks several local products, including Mexifeast tamales and La Criolla spices, said Rolando Rodriguez, the regional general manager. “We want the same resurgence of the community as we created on the West Side,” he said.
Wal-Mart is hoping the local offerings will help revive its unsuccessful six-year push for the city’s approval of proposed Chicago stores. Mayor Richard M. Daley this week reiterated his support for Wal-Mart’s plans. But the company refuses demands that it promise higher wages, and not everybody was impressed with the chain’s latest effort.
“It’s like sharecropping,” said Marissa Johnson, who owns a paralegal service near the site of the proposed store, in the Chatham neighborhood. She said she feared that Wal-Mart would put a lot of her local clients out of business, creating more vacant storefronts.
MP: The last sentence should be clarified as follows - "She feared that local consumers, when given a choice between Wal-Mart's low prices, huge selection, and convenient hours, and the less competitive options at local merchants, would abandon the local merchants in favor of Wal-Mart." Wal-Mart can't force people to shop at its stores; all it can do is offer a low-priced alternative to the high-priced local "mom and pop" merchants. If local merchants fail, they should blame it on "consumer greed," not Wal-Mart.
Thanks to Erik Babocsi for sending the NY Times link.