A Walmart store in Miami, Fla., pictured on Feb. 5, 2009
Getty Images/Joe Raedle
Chain stores are not usually welcomed into the Bay Area's urban centers, let alone big-box retail (remember what happened when American Apparel wanted to move into the Mission?), but Wal-Mart Stores Inc. allegedly has designs on a number of locations thanks to its small-store strategy.
As reported by the Chronicle today, the chain is scoping two dozen locations — "the company is looking at approximately 10 locations in Alameda County, up to six in San Jose, a 'handful' in Contra Costa County, 'at least a dozen' sites in the Sacramento area and the Central Valley, and a 'couple' in San Francisco," according to Garrick Brown, vice president of research at Colliers International, a global real estate brokerage.
The move into the Bay Area is part of a broader effort from the corporation to boost revenues by focusing on groceries, which accounted for 51 percent of Wal-Mart's revenues last year. As detailed in a Bay Citizen story on the struggle for an independent grocer to open doors in West Oakland, other chains have targeted the Bay Area as a place with "urban food deserts" that need more grocery options. UK chain Tesco has a similar small-format store, called Fresh & Easy, slated to open in the Bayview, and Target and Costco have plans to increase food options while shrinking the size of stores.
It remains to be seen whether Wal-Mart, which paid $35 million to settle employee mistreatment lawsuits last year, will actually execute its urban strategy in the Bay Area. But don't be surprised if you see those greeters working the door in some unlikely locations. As Helen Bulwik, executive partner at Bedrock Dissero, a retail management firm in Oakland, told the Chronicle, "They could easily fit four or even five locations into cities where there are significant gaps," she said. "Look at West Oakland, for example. There are no grocery stores there."