Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Wal-Mart Saturation

People may have a point when they say, “How bad can one Wal-Mart store be for New York City?” But the problem is that Wal-Mart is not interested in one or ever a couple of stores within the 5 boroughs. As can be seen in places like San Diego or Lincoln, Nebraska, once the retail giant gains a beachhead in an area it attempts to saturate it, often to the dismay of local residents.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, Wal-Mart wants to bring a second supercenter to Pompano Beach and people are quite upset:

"I hope we don't get one," said Colleen Lacy, who lives in the nearby Kendall Green community. "We have enough problems with traffic, break-ins and grocery carts over here. I figure all it will do is bring our area down. Why can't they stay the same Wal-Mart? Why do we need another one so close?"
The town’s mayor doesn’t want a second store and neither do a number of city commissioners:

"Let them go down to Miramar," said Mayor John Rayson. "I don't think we're quite ready for a second Super Wal-Mart. I'd rather have a Super Neiman Marcus or a Super Bloomingdale's."

"I have reservations, " said Commissioner Lamar Fisher. "To have two Super Wal-Marts within a four-mile range ... "
However, Wal-Mart is still pushing the plan, offering up its usual platitudes of jobs and the availability of fresh groceries. Unfortunately, at least one city official is buying it:

"It's a tax base for us, so that helps the economy," said Commissioner E. Pat Larkins, who represents the area. "And some folks from Pompano will obviously get jobs."
Elected officials like Larkins need to realize that the question here isn’t whether Wal-Mart will create jobs (of course it will). The greater concern is how will a second mammoth box store affect the community’s quality of life? Is it worth extra tax revenue to have impassable neighborhoods, increased crime and lower property values? Another question also arises: what are the costs associated with those negative affects (e.g. higher reliance on public services such as health care and police) and does it negate the supposed benefits brought by that second Wal-Mart supercenter?

These will be the type of questions asked in New York City, especially in Staten Island, an area already oversaturated with retail and traffic. Wal-Mart’s cheerleaders in Richmond County can emphasize the job creation and sales tax points all they want but they will have little success in places like Tottenville, Richmond Valley and Charleston if they fail to address the myriad negative impacts of the propopsed 100,000 + sq. ft. store.