business news in context, analysis with attitude

  • The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that when Wal-Mart built a 205,000-sq.-ft. supercenter in West bend, Wisconsin, it was expected to decimate nearby small business owners.

    The opposite has happened. At least, so far.

    In fact, competitive retailers are thriving with increased sales, especially as Wal-Mart attracts more potential shoppers to the region. They haven’t done this by standing still: one tire dealer started selling high-end tires and doing engine work that Wal-Mart wasn’t interested in.

    "They stayed and checked out the other businesses," Cesar Suarez, executive vice president of the West Bend Area Chamber of Commerce, told the paper. "It put life into the downtown, where there are phenomenal shopping experiences at small specialty stores and at a burgeoning dining area."

  • In Inglewood, California, where the city council passed legislation preventing opening any store larger than 155,000 sq. ft. and selling more than 20,000 SKUs, Wal-Mart has decided to gather signatures on petitions that would force the question to a referendum.

    The council vote was clearly seen as being anti-Wal-Mart, and was influenced by union activists that want to keep the assiduously anti-union Wal-Mart out of the city, and slow down its aggressive California expansion plans.

KC's View:
Our prediction? There eventually will be a Wal-Mart in Inglewood. And if the retailers there don’t figure out how to compete, they won’t be around very long.

And it won’t entirely be Wal-Mart’s fault.

One thought for the unions…at some level, we hope you’ll be taking the Wal-Mart invasion of California into account when you conduct contract negotiations with other chains there. It’d be a shame if, knowing that union shops are at a cost disadvantage when competing with the Bentonville behemoth, you didn’t work with them -- as opposed to against them -- in creating a labor cost structure that works for everyone.