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The Washington Post‘s Capital Business section today is all about Walmart, and reporters found an ambiguous picture when looking at locations that have already sprung up in the area. Existing big-box grocery stores don’t do well once Walmart arrives, and new ones don’t locate nearby (in D.C., Giant’s unionized workers have taken to wearing Respect DC buttons on the job). But if you are a smaller store and offer something unique, a Walmart can bring more customers, not fewer:
Workers at El Eden Supermercado, at 6222 Richmond Hwy., who declined to give their names, agreed the grocery store’s stock of plantains and conchas is not likely to show up at Wal-Mart, giving them the competitive advantage.
Other retailers near the Kings Crossing Wal-Mart, including florists, restaurants and nail salons, say the store has brought them new customers.
Arturo Castro, assistant manager of the Panera Bread at 6670 Richmond Hwy., said he has noticed an increased flow of customers toting Wal-Mart bags on the weekends.
“A lot of people do their shopping over there and then come here to get something to eat,” he said. “It’s been really helpful for business.”
That’s basically what I heard from Georgia Avenue-based developer Adrian Washington, who said he thought the Ward 4 store would spur both commercial and residential development, if they could get the labor and traffic issues worked out. “If you can do complimentary things that Walmart doesn’t do, that will really play off the Walmart,” he told me. As far as new housing in the corridor, Walmart is a big attraction. “You probably don’t want to be the guy across the street from it,” he says. “But you might want to be the guy four or five blocks from there.”
Which doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be strong community benefits agreements, local hiring requirements, etc. Or that on a macro scale, Walmart’s rock-bottom pricing doesn’t come at the cost of labor and environmental standards in the places where it sources products.
It just means that locally, it might not have as apocalyptic an effect on independent retail as opponents have suggested.