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2004-10-06
Bentonville, AR. Wal-Mart, Oblivious to Community Opposition, Plans 250 Expansion

Like a giant so distended it can no longer see its feet, Wal-Mart is telling analysts this week that it plans to push more and more superstores on uncooperative communities, creating a coalition of the unwilling against the retailer. The Arkansas corporation said it plans to build as many as 250 supercenters in 2005, a number slightly higher than the 2004 figure. The only problem is, they can expect to see at least one-third of those stores mired down by grassroots opposition, including lengthy permits hearings and lawsuits -- what one reporter called "a rising tide of community opposition." Bloomberg News quoted Sprawl-Buster Al Norman as saying at least 16 cities and counties defeated plans for supercenters since January. That does not county another 20 or more that are "pending" due to community battles. "This year, Sprawl-Busters and community groups, which say supercenters drive local companies out of business, defeated more plans for big retail stores, most of them Wal-Mart's, than in any prior year, Norman said. "The volume of the opposition has been turned up considerably," he said. "It's increased exponentially." Wal-Mart response? "You have to take the critics seriously, but it's not at a point where it's impacting our ability to open stores," said Keith Morris, a Wal-Mart community affairs director. According to Bloomber news, Wal-Mart sales now represent roughly 9% of all retail spending in the United States.

What you can do: Wal-Mart's ability to open new stores certainly has been impacted, and no one knows it better than the company. They are now on a vigorous public relations crusade to try and recast its image with the public from bad neighbor to good corporate citizen. The company has faced opposition from all quarters, and is dealing with litigation, new zoning restrictions, and increasing organized citizen opposition. Easily 60 to 80 of their new proposals will run afoul of local community resistance. All Wal-Mart will do in response is spend more money on TV and newspaper image ads. The core expansion of the company cannot slow down, or risk serious consequences on Wall Street expectations. The retailer has to be more concerned about its stock price, than with the price of alienating many communities where it's imposing it's too-large stores.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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