by Max Brantley
Walmart has renewed a push to enter New York City. Former CEO Lee Scott once famously said he didn't care if the retailer never entered New York. But investors are now demanding growth from the company, which has saturated rural and suburban markets. It amounts to a big-time political campaign, by the NY Times' interesting telling.
Intentionally or not, a top Wal-Mart executive sounded like a politician during a meeting with investors last October when talking about the company’s urban strategy. “Most people would think that our base in America is probably people who’ve historically self-identified themselves as conservative voters,” said Leslie Dach, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs and government relations, adding that the company was seeing “very good” growth among moderate voters.
“So now we only have one segment left,” he said. “People who self-identify themselves as liberals.”
In New York, an indisputably Democratic city, Wal-Mart faces a big challenge, both from lawmakers, like Ms. Quinn, and from unions, who accuse the retailer of endangering small businesses and mistreating its workers.
Wal-Mart has responded with an all-out push meant to overwhelm and outmaneuver its far less deep-pocketed opposition. It has put out a flurry of television, radio and newspaper advertisements, including one radio spot that accuses opponents of not caring “about how many jobs Wal-Mart would create or how badly people need them.”
I'm not much of a shopper, but I am a liberal. My attitude toward Walmart is shaped to some degree, naturally, by how the Walton family's billions have been deployed politically and how they punish opposing voices and how much they hate unions. But I'm mostly influenced by the feeling of dread that accompanies any thought of navigating the crazy parking lots and their jumbled stores crammed with stuff I don't buy. Target's aesthetics are superior to me. New York residents I know make regular runs to a New Jersey Target. I don't think many of them would make the same schlep to a Walmart, unless it's a different breed of the brand. Sounds like that's possible.