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The Los Angeles Times reports that Walmart is launching “a big push into the highly competitive Southern California grocery business, which could spell further trouble for the region's major supermarket chains.”

According to the story, Walmart - which encountered enormous push-back when it wanted to open supercenters in Southern California - has plans for 13 Neighborhood Markets there, including one in Chinatown, two in Orange County, one in Ventura County and one in San Diego.

The story notes that “California's three biggest supermarket chains grocers — Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons — are already losing market share to smaller competitors such as Trader Joe's and new rivals like Target, which carries fresh groceries in 236 stores in California. Now Wal-Mart will present fresh competition to the state's existing grocery chains.

At the same time, the arrival of Wal-Mart, which has long fought off efforts to unionize its workers, poses more challenges for the United Food and Commercial Workers union. The UFCW represents supermarket workers, who have already held protests and tried to organize workers at some of the nonunion chains such as Whole Foods Market, Bristol Farms and Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market.”

Meanwhile, the San Jose Business Journal reports that a Walmart Neighborhood Market “will make its Silicon Valley debut this fall, with a 38,000-square-foot store going into a former Safeway at San Jose's Westgate Mall.

“The opening sets up a growing rivalry between union and non-union food retailers. The region is one of the nation's union strongholds. Some industry observers say the world's largest retailer may open a dozen locations in the Bay Area, furthering the rivalry.

“On one side, you have traditional union grocers, such as Safeway, Lucky and Nob Hill Foods. On the other side, you have a growing number of non-union supermarkets being operated by Wal-Mart, Target, Trader Joe's and Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market.”
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