Byline: Jen Haberkorn, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said yesterday that its new Landover Hills store will be in one of 10 urban areas it will try to revitalize as it changes its focus from opening stores in suburban and rural areas to opening in major cities.
The store, the first inside the Capital Beltway, is scheduled to open early next month at the site of the Capital Plaza Mall on Route 450.
The Bentonville, Ark., company said the 10 stores, nearly all of which are on the outskirts of major U.S. cities, will select five small businesses each quarter for special treatment. The businesses will receive free advertising in the Wal-Mart store and in local newspapers, as well as assistance in business planning.
Wal-Mart said the store - the Landover Hills location already had about 8,000 applicants for 320 jobs - and its support of nearby businesses will help the communities prosper.
But Wal-Mart's opponents said the program is merely a public relations ploy designed to smooth the way into urban areas.
"They say they're going to help their competitors compete with them," said Chris Kofinis, a spokesman for the union-sponsored Wakeup Walmart.com. "Does anybody believe them?"
Nearly all of the areas in the program are just outside major cities where Wal-Mart has few, if any, stores inside the city limits - the District (none), Atlanta (3), Pittsburgh (2), Cleveland (none), Chicago (1) and Fresno, Calif. (3). It's also being implemented in Portsmouth, Va., near Norfolk; Richmond, Calif.; Indianapolis, and El Mirage, Ariz.
In many of these cities, and others, Wal-Mart has been met with so-called "anti-big-box legislation" - city ordinances banning stores of a certain size or demanding that they pay a certain wage. A Chicago store opened last year only after Mayor Richard Daley vetoed anti-big-box legislation the City Council had passed. The company backed out of plans to open a Queens, N.Y., store after protests from the community.
D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, reintroduced legislation this month that would require any retailer whose parent company has more than $1 billion in revenue and has a store of more than 75,000 square feet to pay at least $11.75 an hour in wages and health benefits.
The legislation, which is now in committee, would likely apply only to retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Costco.