Housing Complex

Walmart Kills Other Grocery Stores, Helps Smaller Retail?

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.

  • Robert

    Walmart hadware products are imported and low quality.

    I have monitored their food products and they have removed wholesome products and replaced them with inferior products that may provide better margins.
    The produce is often seconds. One a regular basis specific food products are sold out and the shelve is empty.
    Of course you get what you pay for.

    Here in Florida I will pay a few dollars more to shop at Publix where the shelves are stocked and quality food products are available.

  • sam

    Something better on Georgia Ave will attract more people probably. And it won't shutter half the neighborhood/result in a net loss of retail jobs. The neighborhood is on the up and it holds out for something better it will come for sure.

  • Keith

    Considering the fact that Ward 7 is horribly underserved with Grocery and retail (especially in the Capitol Gateway area) I will welcome Walmart with open arms. The closest grocery store in the District is about 17 blocks away.

  • Grumpy

    I shopped at Publix in Sarasota; pretty nice. Not Wegmans, but nice.

    As for 'the Evil Empire', they make shopping for multiple items easier. These days, one stop shopping is what folks want. And sadly, we will sacrifice quality over easy.

  • sam

    Forget 'one stop shopping'...you can do most of your shopping online these days, so one stop shopping is becoming a thing of the past.

    As for Walmart bringing a grocery store to Ward 7...ha! The store basically rode on the back of the Council's plan to subsidize grocery stores in blighted areas. So the store is hardly the only solution to the problem, its merely hijacking the council's initiative, which never even had time to take effect before Walmart started steering the public discourse in its favor.

  • HousengComplix


  • Grumpy

    One stop shopping will never be a thing of the past. Folks want to be able to see/touch certain things. Shopping online is the new Sears & Roebuck catalog; those didn't put going to stores out of business and neither will online shopping.

  • sam

    Except that shopping online you can get a lower price than a single catalog because you have multiple competitors. Sure, you need to see things before you buy them...but do you have to see them all at one giant behemoth store like Walmart?

  • http://alanpagedc.com Alan Page

    Shopping online isn't an option for everyone because not everyone in the District (a) has Internet access at home (b) has a credit card or debit card with which to make online purchases (or even a checking account for electronic check or Paypal purchases).

    People who lack Internet access at home or credit cards & checking accounts (around 15% of our population by some estimates) would be a key market for Wal-Mart, even though this demographic also tends to not own a car, which may significantly reduce the attractiveness of shopping en masse/bulk shopping for them.

    How much discussion is there surrounding how to maximize public transit options near the proposed sites? Is there any empirical data on how much Wal-Mart shoppers rely on PT to get there and home?