The fact that Walmart Inc's headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas
remained open today despite a foot of fresh snow in the area and the
resulting lack of employees was yet another reminder that the world's largest company
does not let anything block its doors from swinging wide open. Not snow, not some silly documentary
that is--and certainly not the recession. In fact, news from the BBC shows that
Walmart's decline in revenues over the last six quarters--a result of
the economy's effect on Walmart's customer base--has only served as a
prompt for the company to expand to places where the impacts of the
recession are not as readily apparent. Walmart's "final frontier," says
the BBC, are large cities.
The news of Walmart's urban advance is all around us: There was talk
last week of a New York city-council hearing in Manhattan about a proposed
of a Walmart in Brooklyn yesterday (put that in your pipe and smoke
it, all you New York Times-beloved
wannabe documentary-makers, you denim-clad peddlers
of nostalgia), grumblings
about incursions into Boston, and to top it all off the BBC reporting
today on plans to open four outlets in Washington D.C by 2012. Is the apocalypse upon us?
plan to take our nation's capital is disconcerting on a variety of
levels. First, one Walmart is roughly
equivalent to at least 8 other normal stores--doesn't four seem superfluous? Is it one for each quadrant? An
outlet for each branch of our government (including the Press as the
fourth, of course)? Will they include a restaurant for lobbyist lunches?
This news also comes on the heels of Walmart's announcement a
couple of weeks ago--complete with some First Lady star powers
--that they would reduce sodium
and added sugar and increase their selection of local
produce over the next five years.
"Five or 10 years ago there
was such acrimony around Wal-Mart that it would have been very difficult
for them to enter the city," says D.C. council member David Catania in
the BBC. Well, then: why is D.C., or any other city for that matter, lowering the drawbridge now? Is this purely about unemployment?
Coincidentally, news of an academic study
came out two weeks ago that made some direct ties between the shopping
center and obesity rates. The research showed that one new Walmart for
every 100,000 residents lead to an "average weight gain of 1.5 pounds
per person....over a 10-year period dating from the store's opening,"
reported Shannon Proudfoot
at the Montreal Gazette, in addition to raising the rate of obesity by
"2.3 percentage points." That means that "for every 100 people, two who
weren't obese ended up in that category after a superstore opened."
prices may be rock-bottom at the store, but apparently it's not saving anybody
money in the long run. "Only a small portion of consumers'
savings," at Walmart were offset by "the resulting increase in medical
expenditures," the study's abstract dryly notes
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