As we have been predicting, the Wal-Mart incursion into New York City will be predicated on the company's efforts to woo (co-opt) minority businesses and the usual opportunistic local "power brokers." In today's NY Sun Daniella Gerson underscores just how prescient this observation was.
It seems that our friends at Wal-Mart have been very busy networking with a wide range of diverse and apparently malleable small business groups. Front and center in this effort is one eager fellow named Frank Garcia. Garcia calls himself the president of the New York Statewide Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and in the past few years has managed to alienate a wide range of Hispanic organizations, including the NYS Federation of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce that is headed by Alfred Placeres. The Federation is the longstanding group that has represented the interests of Hispanic businesses.
As far as we know, and we have been working with Hispanic business groups for the better part of two decades, Garcia has just recently injected himself into this field and has all of the legitimacy of any self-appointed spokesman. But Garcia really isn't the issue. There will always be Garcia types looking to benefit, in a parasitic manner, from the largesse of a Wal-Mart.
The real issue is the cynical attempt of Wal-Mart to use some minority businesses to create a beachhead in NYC. And from the looks of things it won't be easy. Gerson cites the vigorous opposition of Councilmember John Liu: "The impact of Wal-Mart would be to not only degrade worker conditions in New York City, but would also drive a dagger into the economic engine of New York City, which is small business."
Our friend Sung Soo Kim of the Small Business Congress also weighs in on this cynical attempt to co-opt the small business community through the age-old divide and conquer tactic. Kim points out concerning his members, "not one is in favor of Wal-Mart coming to New York."
One final word to the struggling suppliers looking for a Wal-Mart lifeline. The retail giant has made a practice of using unique local wholesalers for a period of time only to, once the company has learned all it needs to know about the products in question, replicate the production of the same goods overseas. A word to then wise: cultivate local retailers and create a long term win-win situation.
As for Mr. Garcia, our advice to the Bentonville Bombers is to be very careful of who you ally yourself with. His miraculous conversion on his trip down to Arkansas was no divine revelation but something much more tawdry and transparent.