As part of its new “urban strategy,” the world’s largest retailer,Â Wal-Mart Stores Inc., is looking to open two dozen stores in the Bay Area, I’m told.
Most of them are in the East Bay, but also on the Peninsula, in San Jose, and in the city that has always said, “No way, Jose” to the Bentonville, Ark., big-box giant.
But these aren’t big boxes.
Instead, they are the “smaller format” stores favored by the likes ofÂ Trader Joe’s Co.,Â Whole Foods Market Inc. and the British supermarket chainÂ Tesco PLC, whoseÂ Fresh & Easy “neighborhood markets” are coming to the Bay Area, including San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood.
And, like these others, they’ll be primarily grocery stores, with plenty of fresh foods and prepared takeout.
“Wal-Mart is throwing out their old playbook,” saidÂ Garrick Brown, vice president of research atÂ Colliers International, a global real estate brokerage. “They’re going after the urban market, which they haven’t been able to penetrate, mostly because of their size.”
“That’s where the money is”: Wal-Mart has not disclosed details, but Brown said a company source put the nationwide number of planned new, city-centric stores between 300 and 400.
Please forgive me for sounding like an arugula-eating-hybrid-driving-tree-hugging liberal, but I think Walmart has a very hard next-to-impossible time ahead of it if it wants approval for a store in San Francisco.
To begin with, you have our city’s aversion to “formula retail” which requires extra steps and hearings during the planning process, including neighborhood and community input. Throw in Walmart’s track record as an anti-union employer and some rather nasty lawsuits about gender discrimination, racial discrimination, and healthcare, and you’ll understand why I think they are a long shot for having a store approved in San Francisco anytime soon. Like this century…