Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wal-Mart's "No Mas" Moment

It is really quite remarkable, isn't it? The largest retailer in the world, the great behemoth itself, apparently throwing in the towel in New York City, and telling the NY Times this morning, in the words of its CEO Lee Scott; "I don't think it's worth the effort." As Scott told the paper "I don't care if we are ever here."

Finally, something that the megastore and its opponents can agree on-New York City and Wal-Mart aren't perfect together. This despite having hired expensive lobbyists and PR people, and having spent millions more in self promotion. So the company that has achieved what could be called a leveraged buyout of the entire country of China, a communist country at that, can't manage to build a single NYC outlet. Who would have thunk it!

And who does Scott blame? Well, sniff sniff, the "snobbish elites" in New York are the culprits; "You have people who are just better than us and don't want a Wal-Mart in their community." This is laugh out loud funny, because the guy I keep seeing in all of this is Pat Purcell of Local 1500 of the UFCW, as indefatigable a worker against the Walmonster as anyone in this city or even the entire country. The notion of Pat as a snobbish elite is simply too precious to contemplate.

Than there are all of the snobs of Tottenville on Staten Island who came out by the hundreds in November of 2005, in the worst rainstorm of the year, to demonstrate their opposition to a Wal-Mart in their neighborhood. Scott needs to really get a grip, because his skewed evaluation of the company's failures here are certainly not doing any service to his shareholders.

All of which shouldn't lead Wal-Mart's opponents to get overly jubilant. Scott's remarks are by no means contractually binding and they may be designed as an elaborate feint, meant to generate a fatal complacency among the store's opponents. Already, as Crain's NY Business is reporting, the company is backtracking on its boss' remarks. Now they only were referring to Manhattan, and not the outer boroughs where there interest is still high.

Clearly old Lee Scott has issues in his own shop. What is true, however, is that vigilance needs to be maintained and the grass roots efforts must be continued. We believe that Wal-Mart will continue to exhibit a Freddy Krueger-like quality and reports of its demise in this town must be treated with a grain of salt.