The weekly phone calls. The dinner invites. The gifts.
When representatives from Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, waltz into the New York Hilton for this year’s two-day International Council of Shopping Centers conference, many of the city’s most intrepid retail brokers will be close behind them, perhaps even plying those officials with compliments, dinner invitations and business opportunities.
So it goes for the 50-year-old, Arkansas-based retail chain, which since 2005 has continued to seek big-box space in New York City’s five boroughs despite thrice being spurned by the City Council, civic groups and labor unions upset with the company’s decision to roll back health care coverage for part-time workers and raise premiums for full-time staff.
As retail brokers told The Commercial Observer last week, however, the chain continues to draw flirtatious advances from agents attempting to land what, no doubt, would be one of the city’s biggest leasing assignments in years. Because the company has no dedicated real estate broker, most continue to send their love, some even on a weekly or monthly basis.
“They’re constantly calling them,” said Patrick Breslin, an executive vice president of East Coast Retail Services for Studley, who said he has observed colleagues fawn over Walmart executives. “It’s a relationship business.”
As for a dinner audience, however, Walmart has a stricter policy than other large-scale retailers, such as K-Mart or Target, according to brokers who said the chain has turned down dinner invitations due to a long-standing restriction.