April 20, 2021

A Respite in Efforts by Wal-Mart in New York

The company has pulled back after its push to open a store in the East New York section of Brooklyn fell through and after it terminated its contracts with five lobbyist-consultants it had hired to help it win approval for that project.

The plans have stalled during this year’s intensely fought mayoral primary in which several of the Democratic candidates are fierce critics of Wal-Mart and have backed union efforts to block the retailer’s entry to New York. Having saturated many suburban and rural areas, Wal-Mart has long had its eyes on New York City, the nation’s largest center for consumerism, as part of its effort to expand into highly populated urban areas.

Steven Restivo, a Wal-Mart spokesman, acknowledged a partial pullback.

“Once we knew we weren’t moving forward in East New York, we made a common-sense decision to scale back some of our Brooklyn-related activities,” he said. He confirmed that Wal-Mart had cut back on the lobbyists and consultants it used for the Brooklyn project.

One of those consultants, who insisted on anonymity for fear of angering Wal-Mart officials, said the retailer had all but shut down its efforts in New York. “They’ve not pushing at all,” the consultant said in an interview. “They’re all but packed it up and left.”

However, a person familiar with Wal-Mart’s plans in the city, who asked not to be named because publicly speaking about the company was not authorized, said it was now interested in sites already zoned for retail to minimize conflict with public officials.

“Coming to New York’s a big deal, and if you do it, you want to get it right and to be successful,” this person said.

Many public officials say they will continue to fight a Wal-Mart city store. They hailed the latest developments, asserting that Wal-Mart had been beaten by union and community opposition.

Mr. Restivo said Wal-Mart was not giving up. “We remain committed to opening stores all across the U.S., including in large cities,” he said, adding that Wal-Mart would continue to evaluate opportunities in the city.

Wal-Mart’s reputation has been undercut by recent bad publicity, including accusations reported in an investigation by The New York Times that Wal-Mart executives had bribed many Mexican officials and that some of its suppliers were major customers of an apparel factory in Bangladesh where a fire killed 112 workers in November. Labor unions have done their utmost to keep Wal-Mart out of New York City, asserting that its wages and benefits are too low and that it could put union supermarkets out of business.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, was long rumored to become a tenant at the Gateway II development in Brooklyn, but in September, the company said it would not open there after all. Wal-Mart officials said its East New York plans fell through because it could not come to financial terms with the developer.

Nevertheless, Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker and a Democratic candidate for mayor — and a frequent critic of Wal-Mart — said, “However Wal-Mart wants to spin it, they were up against tremendous political and community opposition that made it impossible for them to open a store in New York.”

“As long as Wal-Mart’s behavior remains the same, they’re not welcome in New York City,” she added. “New York isn’t changing. Wal-Mart has to change.”

Bill de Blasio, the New York City public advocate. who is also running for mayor, said Wal-Mart was no longer nearly as loud or visible in New York as it was a year or two ago.

Mr. de Blasio, who has issued several anti-Wal-Mart reports, including one that argued that Wal-Mart’s entry would cause a loss of jobs in New York, said Wal-Mart mounted a vigorous public relations campaign in 2010, 2011 and part of 2012. Radio ads, direct mail and targeted charitable donations were made to try to win community support.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/07/business/a-respite-in-efforts-by-wal-mart-in-new-york.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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