In his Feb. 1 Viewpoint, Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo calls into question the sources Justin Leighton and I used to discuss potential economic impacts of the proposed Elks Walmart (Viewpoint, 1-22). Oddly, Restivo offers almost no reliable sources of his own to back up his claims.
Restivo criticizes studies by Neumark, Zhang and Ciccarella, published in 2008 in the Journal of Urban Economics, and by Dube, Lester and Eidlin of the University of California at Berkeley, calling them “outdated,” “faulty” and “partially based on newspaper accounts rather than verifiable research.”
However, he provides no “verifiable research” – not even a “newspaper account” – to support his criticisms, other than citing unnamed “studies by independent parties.”
Restivo does cite credible consultant reports calling into question a Loyola University study on Walmart’s impact on one Chicago neighborhood. Yet he doesn’t provide any verifiable research suggesting that the Elks Walmart would have a positive impact on a neighborhood that is not a food desert and is already well served by other retail and grocery options.
Indeed, a 2010 study in the Journal of Marketing Management (Ailawadi, Zhang, Krishna and Kruger), found a median reduction in sales of 40 percent for incumbent “mass stores” and 17 percent for grocery stores, though it provided helpful analysis on steps retailers could take to lessen the blow.
Tacoma deserves a respectful conversation around economic impacts, not unsupported attacks. Walmart has worked with communities in the past – including Chicago’s Austin neighborhood – to craft development plans. Why won’t the company work with Tacoma?