By Jesse McKnight
Executive Vice President, The Saint Consulting Group
Wal-Mart appears to be making a concerted effort to gain approval for new store locations in areas of the country that have in years past been off limits. This effort appears to be concentrated on new urban areas, where the effects of new jobs and greater tax revenue could make permitting more obtainable.
It also coincides with recent changes in public attitudes, reported by the Saint Index©, with opposition to Wal-Mart stores lower than at any point in the past four years.
The world’s largest retail chain recently announced efforts to develop up to 12 new store locations in Chicago, following up on a similar abandoned effort in 2004. It appears that the focused strategy is to gain a foothold in the southern areas of the city. These areas have long been under served by the major grocery chains and seem to welcoming to Wal-Mart’s advances. However, Chicago Business News reports unions are putting up a stiff fight, despite the retailer’s pitch that the stores will provide much needed jobs.
In addition, Wal-Mart is making strong pitches in Vermont with efforts to open new supercenters in Bennington and Newport. Vermont has long been Wal-Mart free and not hospitable to the big-box model.
Northwest Arkansas’s news source, the NWA blog, posted an extensive report by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on expansion plans for Wal-Mart, and the Gothamist blog also posted unconfirmed reports that Wal-Mart may be interested in moving into Manhattan’s Union Square.
For an unusual image showing the growth of Wal-Mart across the US, click on this Flowing Data map.
In Canada, however, Wal-Mart has decided to close all six of its Sam’s Clubs stories in southern Ontario, to focus on its superstores, Canoe Money reports.
These advances coincide with the recent results of the Saint Index©, showing that Americans are more likely to support new commercial projects in their hometown given the current economic situation. Also, Wal-Mart polled at its lowest opposition in the four years of the survey, falling from a high of 68% opposing a Wal-Mart development in their hometown, to 56% this year.
The Saint Index© tracks attitudes toward real estate development projects in the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom. It is the only primary research tool that quantifies and tracks the politics of land use, spotlighting who actively opposes and supports real-estate related projects and why.
Jesse McKnight is Executive Vice President of The Saint Consulting Group, email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 510 770 1511