Wal-Mart isn’t buying this morning’s report from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s office, which called the retailer a “Trojan horse” that stands to hurt the city’s small businesses.
“New Yorkers need a public advocate that’s focused on finding solutions for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who are out of work and the millions more who don’t have convenient access to fresh, affordable food,” said Steven Restivo, Wal-Mart’s director of community affairs, in an emailed statement. “Time and again, our stores have proven to be part of the solution in both those regards in thousands and thousands of communities across the country.”
Restivo referenced one Chicago store that has been cited by both sides of the debate, as they tussle over whether a Wal-Mart store should be allowed in New York City. A 2009 study cited the Chicago location as detrimental to area businesses, but on Sunday, the Daily News published an op-ed by a local alderwoman that argued the store has been a boon to an economically-depressed neighborhood.
“We’re proud of our record and one doesn’t have to look much further than Chicago to see how one Walmart store transformed an urban neighborhood,” Restivo said in the statement.
More than anything, the Chicago store illustrates the difficulty in measuring the retailer’s economic impact; it was also cited as a reason to exclude the retailer in the “literarature review” issued by de Blasio’s office this morning, which surveyed 50 studies of Wal-Mart’s impact over the last seven years.
“Randomly selected statements from a handful of flawed studies don’t measure up to real people whose lives are better because they have a good job and access to fresh food to feed their families,” said Restivo of the report.
Wal-Mart has launched an aggressive public relations campaign intended to demonstrate those real people exist, with videos of local Wal-Mart shoppers posted on a new website.
But the public advocate’s office is responding aggressively too–part of a battle that promises to drag on for quite some time.
“If Wal-Mart actually had the facts on their side then they wouldn’t be ducking a City Council hearing and pouring tons of money into a PR blitz,” said Matthew Wing, a spokesman for de Blasio, referencing the store’s decision not to participate in a Council hearing on the matter (which was postponed from Wednesday until next month, on account of a coming snowstorm). “Wal-Mart can’t escape the truth: this is a company that kills more jobs than it creates and ‘transformed’ a Chicago neighborhood by driving 82 local businesses out of town. That’s not a record to be proud of, that’s a red flag for New York City’s economy.”