The Big Business Behind Local Opposition to Wal-Mart

Typically thought of as a war to protect small businesses in communities from being swallowed up by a giant, the local opposition to Wal-Mart stores is often funded secretly by other major grocery chains.

This article from The Wall Street Journal sheds light on the well-heeled campaigns to keep Wal-Marts out of communities -- and to protect the businesses of other major grocery chains.

"A grocery chain with nine stores in the area had hired Saint Consulting Group to secretly run the antidevelopment campaign. Saint is a specialist at fighting proposed Wal-Marts, and it uses tactics it describes as "black arts."

As Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has grown into the largest grocery seller in the U.S., similar battles have played out in hundreds of towns like Mundelein. Local activists and union groups have been the public face of much of the resistance. But in scores of cases, large supermarket chains including Supervalu Inc., Safeway Inc. and Ahold NV have retained Saint Consulting to block Wal-Mart, according to hundreds of pages of Saint documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and interviews with former employees."

Full Story: Rival Chains Secretly Fund Opposition to Wal-Mart



The unfortunate current realities of urban planning

While the Wall Street Journal article explains the antics within the commercial property development sector (deceptively shutting out Walmart denying consumers cheaper prices), the same games are played within the residential sector, by land banking interests and poorly governed Local Governments, unable to cope with normal growth (the Parkinson Law problem).

An example of this is Local Government using "smart growth" as a sales aid for their real no growth objectives and creating unnecessary scarcity induced housing bubbles.

Central and State Governments focus must be to get solutions in place, so that special interests cannot game the urban planning system to suit themselves, at the expense of consumers and the wider community.

The planning profession itself needs to play a greater role in working with others in exploring solutions to these serious issues. The leading planning website Planetizen is to be commended for drawing readers attention to this important Wall Street Journal article.

Hugh Pavletich FDIA
Co author - Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey
Performance Urban Planning ( )
New Zealand

On the other hand

As you say, governments should establish policies that resist special interests' manipulations of planning policy. The land occupied by a typical big-box store could be better developed with mixed-use facilities that encourage local entrepreneurship and broader diversification of interests, the "wider community". Promoting marginally lower pricing and blaming the workers for striving to build local prosperity ignores the true value of community planning. Is it right to subvert the urban planning profession to serve the profit of remote corporations at the expense of local businesses and families?

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