On Cusp of Council Hearing, Walmart Pushes Back–UPDATE

walmart 7 On Cusp of Council Hearing, Walmart Pushes Back  UPDATEThe City Council is slated to take up for the first time the issue of Walmart in New York City tomorrow, and backers of the superstore are beginning to push back on opponents’ notion that the city retailer will kill jobs.

Walmart representatives sent the following letter–copied below–to The Politicker, which they have distributed to City Council members. In it, Walmart explains their reason for declining to appear at tomorrow’s hearing.

New York City is home to many of our best competitors.  Companies such as Sears, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Trader Joe’s, Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, Dollar Store, Home Depot, Costco, Target, Best Buy, BJ’s, Lowes, Ikea, Kmart, Office Max, Office Depot, Toys ‘R Us, Borders, Barnes & Noble certainly have changed the face of retail across all 5 boroughs.  We believe that the jobs, business competition and economic growth created by Walmart and companies such as these are to the benefit of any community. 

The joint hearing, however, does not appear to consider the impact of the hundreds of NYC stores operated by these companies; rather it focuses solely on Walmart.  Since we have not announced a store for New York City, I respectfully suggest the committee first conduct a thoughtful examination of the existing impact of large grocers and retailers on small businesses in New York City before embarking on a hypothetical exercise.

The letter goes on to tout the store’s philanthropic outreach, as well as its impact on local communities through job creation and by providing more options for healthy eating.

UPDATE: 

Stephanie Yazgi, spokesman for Walmart Free NYC, sends along the following:

“Rather than cowardly firing off a letter from their corporate offices Walmart, the biggest company in the world, should have the courage to come before the City Council and answer questions about why their stores kill jobs and small business.

The store is also pushing back on a study that claimed that a store in Chicago hurt that city’s job growth. According to Steven Restivo, Wal-Mart’s director of community affairs, the study, often cited by opponents of the store, has been found to be flawed.

February 1, 2011

Hon. Diana Reyna, Chair

Committee on Small Business

Hon. Albert Vann, Chair

Committee on Community Development

Hon. Karen Koslowitz, Chair

Committee on Economic Development

The New York City Council

250 Broadway

New York, NY 10007 

Dear Council Members Reyna, Vann, and Koslowitz:

Thank you for your invitation to appear before your joint committee hearing entitled, “When Walmart Comes to Town – The Effect on Small Businesses and Communities: A Historical and Prospective View.”

We are proud of our record on this topic – from saving people money and creating jobs, to serving as a magnet for growth and development and supporting local non-profits – and I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to share information on this topic with you.  At Walmart, we recognize the importance of being a strong community partner and at no time in recent history has this responsibility been more important.   

As you are aware, Walmart does not have a store in New York City, and therefore members of the committee might not be familiar with our company.  To that end, please find below facts about Walmart that will help you shape an informed view about our commitment to our associates, our local suppliers, our neighbors, and the customers we serve.  What’s more, since I understand that the impact of our Chicago store will be discussed at the hearing, I have enclosed a video that documents some of the success stories that have come to pass there since Walmart opened in 2006.  I thought this video would be especially appropriate to show at the hearing since many of those in attendance have never visited our Chicago store.

Above all else though, I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to continue our recent conversations about New York City.

New York City is home to many of our best competitors.  Companies such as Sears, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Trader Joe’s, Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, Dollar Store, Home Depot, Costco, Target, Best Buy, BJ’s, Lowes, Ikea, Kmart, Office Max, Office Depot, Toys ‘R Us, Borders, Barnes & Noble certainly have changed the face of retail across all 5 boroughs.  We believe that the jobs, business competition and economic growth created by Walmart and companies such as these are to the benefit of any community. 

The joint hearing, however, does not appear to consider the impact of the hundreds of NYC stores operated by these companies; rather it focuses solely on Walmart.  Since we have not announced a store for New York City, I respectfully suggest the committee first conduct a thoughtful examination of the existing impact of large grocers and retailers on small businesses in New York City before embarking on a hypothetical exercise.

For these reasons and more, we respectfully decline participation in the February 3rd hearing. 

Should the committee decide to conduct the hearing in a more comprehensive manner, we would be happy to revisit our decision.  In the interim, we do feel a responsibility to better inform the planned discussion and share some facts about the company that the committee can share with participants.

Walmart’s “save money, live better” mission is relevant to every customer, every day, everywhere we have a presence. During tough economic times, the savings we provide matter more than ever.  We see an opportunity and a responsibility to lead on issues like sustainability, sourcing, economic opportunity and health care. Through sustainability, we’re lowering costs and improving product quality.  We’re helping customers and suppliers become more responsible through our purchasing and sourcing choices.  We’re creating thousands of jobs around the world each year. And on health care, our $4 prescriptions have saved customers $3 billion in the last three years. Initiatives like these help us deliver on our mission, and they contribute to the strength of the Walmart business.

Stores

Walmart currently operates 111 stores in New York State and last year, collected $364 million in state sales taxes and paid more than $88 million in property taxes.  Although we do not have any stores in the five boroughs, New York City residents spent more than $165 million at Walmart last year.

Impact on Communities

All across the country, Walmart co-exists with small, medium and large businesses.  A quick visit to the neighborhoods that are home to our stores, particularly in urban settings, will give you a good sense of how we foster opportunity for others.  Chicago is a great example.  Since we opened our store there, 22 new businesses have opened nearby including a Food4Less, Menard’s, ALDI, Burlington Coat Factory, Harris Bank, Bank of America and Chase Bank.  This is not surprising.  There have been countless studies done that show Walmart stores are a magnet for growth and development.

 

Jobs

Walmart creates jobs that provide a competitive wage, affordable benefits and the chance to build a career.  In New York State, we already employ more than 38,000 people, including over 1,400 New York City residents.  The majority of these positions are full-time.  Nationwide, more than 70-percent of our store management team started as an hourly associate.  Our average hourly wage for regular, full-time associates in New York State is $12.21 per hour.

Associates are eligible for health care benefits and our goal is to ensure that our plans remain affordable, accessible and high quality.  We currently offer plans for as low as $11 (associate only) or $33 (associate plus dependants) per pay period.  This year we also redesigned our retirement and bonus incentive plans to make them more contemporary and relevant.  We are encouraging associates to save for retirement and will now match up to 6 percent into our 401(k) program.

Thousands of Americans ever year choose to make Walmart their first job, providing them training, interaction and experience to build a successful career.  With over 156,000 hourly associates getting promoted last year, Walmart provides true opportunity to advance within the company.

Women’s Initiatives

As one of the nation’s largest private employers, Walmart is an employer of choice for female associates in the U.S. and around the world. We continue to have a commitment to diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our global business. 

Many of our initiatives elevate women through women - allowing our female executives to develop and mentor women throughout the organization. Our goal is to continue to build a robust pipeline of future female leaders.  As we continue our journey towards becoming the best place for women to work, Walmart has been recognized for our efforts, having received the following awards over the past two years:

  • 2010 Top Companies for Executive Women – National Association for Female Executives
  • 2010 Best Companies for Multicultural Women – Working Mother Media
  • 2009 Top 50 Places to Work for Women by the Times (awarded to ASDA)
  • 2009 Top Diversity Employers for Multi-Cultural – Women Professional Women’s Magazine
  • 2009 Top Companies for Executive Women – National Association for Female Executives
  • 2009 Best Companies for Multicultural Women – Working Mother Media
  • 2009 10 Best Companies for Women – PINK Magazine
  • 2009 Top 12 Companies for Latinas – Latina Style

Local Supplier Partnerships

Last year, Walmart spent more than $5.7 billion for merchandise and services with 835 New York City-based suppliers.  The majority of these suppliers are small businesses, employing 100 people or less.  As a result of these partnerships, Walmart supports more than 49,000 supplier jobs in New York City.

Commitment to Affordable, Healthy Food

City Council Speaker Quinn recently outlined a bold vision for a more sustainable food system and correctly pointed out that the New York City food system faces a number of critical challenges, including: 

  • 25% of New York City’s children are obese
  • 3 million people lack adequate access to grocery stores
  • 1.4 million New Yorkers struggle to put food on the table
  • 30% of low-income students take advantage of free breakfast

As the largest seller of locally grown produce in the country, we share the Speaker’s concern and want to be part of the solution when it comes to improving access to healthy, affordable food.  We currently participate inPride of New York. Buy Local. Buy New York, and recently unveiled a new sustainable agriculture program that focuses on maximizing the number of items grown within a one-day delivery radius of our 40 food distribution centers, including one in Johnstown, New York.  We think our distribution network can save many food miles and provide fresher product with less waste. 

Over the next five years, we plan to sell $1 billion globally in food sourced directly from small, medium and local farmers; provide training to 1 million farmers and farm workers in such areas as crop selection and sustainable farming practices; raise the income of farmers we source from by 10 to 15 percent; and invest $1 billion in our global fresh supply chain to help deliver fresh, quality food with a longer shelf life to customers.

Most recently, Walmart was joined by First Lady Michelle Obama as we outlined the five key elements of an effort to provide healthier and more affordable food choices:

ü     Reformulating thousands of everyday packaged food items by 2015

ü     Making healthier choices more affordable

ü     Developing strong criteria for a simple front-of-package seal

ü     Providing solutions to address food deserts by building stores

ü     Increasing charitable support for nutrition programs

Philanthropy

Over the past three years, the Walmart Foundation gave more than $9 million in cash and in-kind donations to local New York City organizations.  Examples include: The Harlem Academy, Fordham University, New Yorkers for Children, Food Bank for NYC, City Harvest, The Door, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Eagle Academy, and many others.  We’ve challenged ourselves to look for ways to make a long-lasting impact in neighborhoods across New York City by funding programs that address critical needs, like hunger, education and job training.  We look forward to sustaining those partnerships in the years to come and forging new relationships along the way.

Thank you again for the invitation and we hope this information is helpful.

Sincerely,

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Philip H. Serghini