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WALMART: Spokesman doesn’t back up his claims

Letter by Bard H. Luippold, Tacoma on Feb. 7, 2012 at 1:10 pm with 17 Comments »
February 7, 2012 1:23 pm

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Journal of Urban Economics, and by Dube, Lester and Eidlin of the University of California at Berkeley, calling them “outdated,” “faulty” and “partially based on newspaper accounts rather than verifiable research.”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?

Leave a comment Comments → 17
  1. A321196 says:

    Do you really expect Wal-Mart to endorse a survey/facts that are not favorable to Wal-Mart? Yes, Wal-Mart may be a welcome addition to an urban area devoid of healthy food and consumer products. Central Tacoma is not one of those areas. Sure, consumer products and food purchased at Wal-Mart will not be bought at Top Foods, Fred Meyer, Safeway and Target. It’s a wash at best.

    I lay the blame at Tacoma city government. What do the employees do to earn their paychecks? Why was a review of zoning on going for central Tacoma? There was a review of other business districts where it is impossible for a super store to be built. Why not the Elk site.

    There are better uses for the Elk site. I know the economy has curtailed investment, but, that need not stop zoning reviews. Take a trip to any local Wal-Mart and you’ll see there are NO stores within their shopping centers (And I do not mean across the highway with a McD’s in a gas station). There are no card shops, no restaurants, nothing. Why would Wal-Mart permit competition with the same products it sells? Duh!

    The Elk site would have been better off with high rise market rate housing which would have brought new $$$ to Tacoma. If residents moved from other neighborhoods in Tacoma, those other neighborhoods would have been back filled with new residents. Oh, the site could have been so much more.

  2. tree_guy says:

    This debate over WalMart is becoming wearisome. The company has an absolute property right to do whatever they want with the property they own or lease within guidelines established by the city planning commission. It really doesn’t matter if the letter writer wants to quibble over studies, findings, survey’s, research reports, personal opinions, or the ever-popular personal anecdotes. This is a free country and people are free to do whatever they want.

    “Be the change you wish to see in the world” Gandhi

  3. alindasue says:

    A321196 said, “The Elk site would have been better off with high rise market rate housing which would have brought new $$$ to Tacoma. If residents moved from other neighborhoods in Tacoma, those other neighborhoods would have been back filled with new residents.”

    Ignoring the choice between another half-empty new housing development or more empty houses in our neighborhoods (there’s 6 with a block radius of my house already)… unless you have the money and are offering to develop the Elks property with it, the point is moot. There was plenty of time for someone else to come forward with the money and build there. They didn’t. Walmart came forward with the money after others didn’t. Is that really so hard to understand?

    Neither the Elks nor the city can bring in “new $$$” by wishful thinking.

  4. alindasue says:

    A321196 ,

    Your challenge was to “take a trip to any local Walmart…”. Okay. How about the closest Walmart to me, the Walmart just off 348th in Federal Way. The following can’t-be-stores (since “there are NO stores within their shopping centers”) are in that particular shopping center:

    Jack in the Box
    Del Taco
    Game Stop
    KFC/Long John Silvers
    Sprint Store
    Round Table Pizza
    Chase Bank
    Smartstyle Family Hair Salon

    and the whatever-it-is (looks like a restaurant of some kind) they were in the middle of building by the Del Taco last time I was there about a month ago.

    That’s not counting the Subway and the beauty salon renting space inside Walmart, nor does it count the Cash & Carry that I’ve shopped at directly behind it or the group of small automotive and tire shops across the street.

    If you look at the environmental statement filed with the city – http://cnc-tacoma.com/images/documents/ElksClubProperty/SEPA_addendum.pdf – the 23rd & Union Walmart share the lot with: a bank with drive through, 18,000 sq. ft. medical-dental office space, a fast food with drive thru, a drive through espresso, and a 5,000 sq. ft. “shopping center”.

    Neither example cited above involves “studies” or “personal anecdotes” – just reliable check-able facts. I don’t care how many studies tell you that “there are NO stores within their shopping centers” and no competing businesses can succeed once a Walmart is put in. Real life indicates otherwise.

  5. alindasue says:

    It took me nearly a dozen tries to get the last two comments to post. Is anyone else having trouble with the system today?

  6. sandblower says:

    “This is a free country and people are free to do whatever they want.”
    As long as it is legal and in the interests of the greater good.
    Walmart is OK for some. I choose to not give them my business because they have treated some employees poorly and they tend to influence neighborhood businesses negatively. A lot of the stuff the sell is junk too.

  7. ReadNLearn says:

    Let’s see, we got a bag of carrots, a bag of potatoes, some gravy packs, four pounds of frozen fish fillets, some canned veggies and seasonings from Walmart today. Enough food for one person for about a week. It came to under $20! At QFC, Safeway or Albertsons, it’d be about 1.5 to 2.5 times higher.

    Funny thing, except for the fish, everything was made in the USA, not China, and most were the same brands available elsewhere for a lot of money.

  8. harleyrider1 says:

    This is America. If it is so terrible, no one will shop there and Walmart will close. On the other hand, if it is successful and shoppers enjoy it, it will thrive.

    Meanwhile, Tacoma has bigger problems. It needs cash infusion; it needs to attract business from all over the Nation.

    It won’t so long as voters continue to re-elect the same people or even people like them to the Council. Recognize as voters, you are in charge – not the Council. They just take their high-paid salaries, enjoy their trips out of state, and spend, spend, spend.

    Demand a business friendly City. Demand changes to make it so. Guess what that does? It creates jobs and it lightens the load on the individual tax-payer.

  9. beerBoy says:

    alindasue – most likely your failed attempts included a word that has been banned here (especially if it was once used as a screen name). It is maddening that this system doesn’t provide feedback when it censors posts so one must guess what words the autowordnazi doesn’t like.

  10. Here we go again! What is it about this stupid corner of the country, that so many people spend so much effort hating nothing more than a silly retail store? I’ve been all over this nation and while other regions may not love Wal~Mart, they see it for just what it is. This dingy place always has to have something to hate, I guess to fill some need to save the world from itself! Haaa!

    I saw another one yesterday, a car with a goofy bumper sticker glued to its fender (so much for re-sale value!) that said, “I dont shop at Wal~Mart” I looked at it and thought to myself…”So What”

    What I find funny is, Wal~Mart parking lots are just as full here as anywhere else.

  11. Spiderweb says:

    Anyone that thinks this corner of the country is “stupid”, please feel free to move. ..

  12. Nope, spider man, I’ll just stay right here and call it as I see it. Besides I most likely was here before you were a gleam in daddy’s eye

    By the way, “if you dont like it leave” is such a tired old cliche…here is my challenge for you to be a bit more inventive.


  13. ReadNLearn says:

    Ever notice that people with anti Walmart bumper stickers are generally dirty in appearance and drive ragged cars that are perhaps held together with those silly personality bumper stickers?

  14. beerBoy says:

    Ever notice that ReadNLearn posts ad hominem attacks on straw men based in classist stereotypes?

  15. Actually BB, Read may have a point! :D

    On a similar note, I got the biggest kick the other day….A big bumper sticker on the back of a Hyundai that said…..”BUY AMERICAN!!”

  16. ManuelMartini says:

    What’s smart about spending your money to a company based in Arkansas, when you can spend your money with a local grocer and help them expand their revenue base in the Pacific Northwest?

    Some of our local geniuses have trouble tieing their shoes

  17. alindasue says:

    ManuelMartini said, “…when you can spend your money with a local grocer and help them expand their revenue base in the Pacific Northwest?”

    Well, here in the southern end of Tacoma, that pretty much limits us to small convenience store sized shops, Saars Marketplace (a decent chain), and… Costco.

    I’m all for “buy local” and do so whenever feasible – but I still find myself questioning why the same people who would raise such a big stink about Walmart being based in Arkansas would have no problem shopping at places like Safeway (based in California), Albertsons (originally Idaho, but now Minnesota), and Fred Meyer (now a Kroger store based in Ohio.)

    While I am not necessarily a Walmart “fan”, I freely admit that I do shop there on occasion. (It’s not worth the commute to shop there often.) If they are going to build something on the Elks’ property, a Walmart is as good as anything else.

    I’ve read several of the “studies” cited against Walmart. The ones I read gave their statistics and the conclusions based on those statistics but often failed to include the conditions their studies were conducted in or who sponsored the studies. So, I balance the studies with my own observations here in the Puget Sound area’s conditions.

    What I have seen is that other businesses do seem to still thrive in their presence, their shopping centers do have other unrelated businesses in them, and communities have not been destroyed when Walmart moved in. The Targets in the areas still pay “industry standard” (near minimum wage), the Fred Meyers still pay a little bit better wage, and the “mom & pop” shops still hire just as few people as they always did.

    And, ReadNLearn, I am not anti-Walmart, but my van definitely needs a bath and has several of those “silly personality bumper stickers” glued to it. Stereotypes don’t work, no matter what direction you are aiming them.

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