New York area Wal-Mart foes, mission semi-accomplished! CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. spoke to NY Times reporters and editors yesterday, where he said something unexpected: "I don’t care if we are ever here." And "here" meant New York City. Or Manhattan, as a spokesperson later clarified. Here's the NY Times on his remarks:
Mr. Scott said yesterday that the opposition to Wal-Mart in New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles and other cities had a common thread: “The glue is the unions.”
Despite setbacks in each of these cities, Wal-Mart has had success in urban areas. In Chicago, for example, Wal-Mart opened a store last year that attracted thousands of job applicants and has, Mr. Scott said, performed better than expected.
He said that Wal-Mart executives have lobbied for a store in New York, but he said he remains unconvinced. “It’s too hard to make money here,” he said.
...[A]s Mr. Scott sees it, there is another reason Wal-Mart has such a hard time making inroads into some of the nation’s biggest enclaves. Speaking about what he sees as snobbish elites in New York and across the country, Mr. Scott added, “You have people who are just better than us and don’t want a Wal-Mart in their community.”
Yeah, we're sure all those unions are a big bunch of snobs. The New York City Central Labor Council's executive director Ed Ott told the Times, “We don’t care if they’re never here. We don’t miss them. We have great supermarkets and great retail outlets in New York. We don’t need Wal-Mart.”
In an interview, Wal-Mart spokesperson Mona Williams explained to the Times, "Entering New York has been difficult, but not something we rule out. Lee said he personally didn’t care if we built stores there or not. It might be more trouble than it’s worth, but that he would leave that up to the real estate group that makes these decisions.” In other words, the CEO's decision doesn't really matter and Staten Island, you're still fair game!
A year ago, a poll showed that 51% of New Yorkers wouldn't mind a Wal-Mart, though three quarters did feel it cut into local business. And last fall, some groups were rallying to pre-emptively stop Wal-Mart from coming to the Bronx. And check out Wal-Mart Free NYC.
Photograph from last year's Deitch Art Parade by urban shore girl on Flickr