I suppose it’s not a big secret, but the Financial Times had a quick piece the other day about Walmart’s plan to expand into urban areas. In some places such as Chicago and New York City Walmart stores have not been able to penetrate urban neighborhoods due to resistance by residents. In other cities, St. Louis, Cleveland, Indianapolis there has simply been littler reason for urban stores as central city populations are small and people drive more so a store along a major road is better anyway.
Well Walmart sees potential and at least according to one survey cited by the Financial Times, resistance to Walmart stores is waning. The company says that they “have a robust plan to go after (urban markets)” and if you have read much about the five and dime from Bentonville you know that “robust” is not simply a marketing buzz word. If you haven’t read anything about Walmart hit “the Google” or take a quick glance at the amount of writing on the subject here.
It would seem that if Walmart were to open a store in New York or Boston that some reasonable urban form would be necessary. Perhaps resistance to new Walmart stores is lessening, but Walmart’s desire to be in urban centers has never been greater. If the company is to continue growing there are few options outside urban centers. Retailers such as Walgreens, Trader Joe’s and event Target have shown that they will open truly urban stores; multi-level, limited or no-parking outlets. Will Walmart follow?
Thinking of my own St. Louis, I can’t imagine that Walmart would sacrifice their established suburban development form to place a store in the city limits. CVS hasn’t been made to, nor has anyone else. And there are a number of sites large enough to accommodate a Supercenter.
So will Walmart bend to the urban form in our larger cities, will public resistance prevent them from entering at all and what is in store for cities like St. Louis? Whatever the case, if Walmart is determined to build urban stores you can be sure that it will happen.