City Desk

Does A New Walmart Really Threaten the Skyland Safeway?

Walmart vs. Safeway at D.C.'s Skyland
The Post reports that the coming Skyland Walmart in Ward 7 may be stymied by a city pledge to Safeway that competitors can't sell groceries in certain parts of the area. Presumably, that includes the Skyland strip mall across the street from Safeway, where the Walmart is to be located. Mayor Vince Gray is apparently trying to work out a deal, but Safeway is naturally being a bit cagey:

“We want to be cooperative, but there is a reason that the covenant is in place to protect our interests,” said Craig Muckle, Safeway’s manager of public affairs and government relations.

At the news conference to announce Wal-Mart’s new plans, Gray said the Wal-Mart stores would help address unemployment — by bringing in about 1,800 jobs — and “food deserts.”

But Muckle said the Ward 7 area where the Wal-Mart is planned may become an oasis that can’t handle two grocers. Such proximity may not be as unusual in the suburbs, where traffic patterns could necessitate and support competing nearby stores, he said.

“In the city, with one possible exception, there is no grocery store directly across the street from another grocery store,” he said. “In a city, basically you’re looking at a store coming in a neighborhood. To have more than one . . . someone may survive; someone may not.”

I was at the Skyland Safeway a couple of weeks ago doing some reporting, and by my observation, the clientele seemed largely middle-class. Shops like the Anacostia Warehouse Supermarket, which was about a mile away and a lot like an overgrown corner store, may actually have more to fear from a coming Walmart. Gray could argue that since, unlike Safeway, Walmart is well known for its appeal to lower-income families, it's more likely that the folks who don't shop at Safeway anyway will be heading to a fresh new Walmart supercenter.

Then again, considering that everyone is trying to make their dollars stretch these days, Safeway may be in trouble, too.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • nivin

    When I grew up. there was a Sears where the current Safwway is, and both Safeway and Giant on the Skyland lot. Lots of choices. A walmark would give us back all the full choices we once had in the area.

  • Keisha

    The clientele at the Safeway changes at the first of the month.

    There is currently a Murry's accross the street from the Safeway in the Skyland lot. So, the land covenant would apply to Walmart and not Murry's? Grant it, Murry's is no Walmart but they sell nothing but groceries where a Walmart would sell more than just groceries.

    Safeway is simply scared of the competition. Competition would do us good and keep me from having to go to VA or MD, when I want to go Walmart. However, losing the CVS will hurt me a little. I also have concern about the traffic, which is already bad on Naylor and Good Hope road.

  • Shani Hilton

    @Keisha: Good point, re: the first of the month. I'd suspect folks taking their SNAP benefits to Safeway would head straight to Walmart.

    At any rate, I agree with you and Nivin: More choice is ultimately better for consumers.


    Keisha, I agree with your comment. I live in upper Northwest D.C. in Ward 4. I shop at the Super Walmart in Severn, Maryland near BWI airport. Right across from the Supper Walmart is a Shoppers. I usually go into the Shoppers before going into the Walmart. There's a High's store across the street that sells ice cream. Safeway and Giant are scared of the competition. Right before Thanksgiving, I visited the Sav-A-Lot in Chillum, Maryland. I was somewhat surprised to see so many black senior citizens and Central Americans in their grocery shopping. Most people are on a budget in these hard economic times and they will go where there can afford or recieve the best deal. I welcome the Walmart that's coming to Walmart Ward 4. I will no longer have to drive out to Laurel, Hanover, and Severn, Maryland to shop at Walmart.

  • Northwesterner

    I am surprised by this. I think that Wal-Mart is in direct competition with Safeway. I am sure that Safeway will get hurt when Wal-Mart opens and I'm sure they won't be able to upscale the Safeway. I've been inside a Wal-Mart before and the prices are insanely cheap, they are a clear competitor to a union store like Safeway.

    Also Murrys was probably grandfathered into the covenant.