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Walmart refutes claims about aggressive Los Angeles expansion

By Kylie Reynolds
Published: Wednesday, June 27, 2012, at 09:12AM
Michael Katz / KPCC

The Walmart in Chinatown is scheduled to be built on the ground floor of this building.

Walmart is contesting claims by a Los Angeles advocacy group that the retail giant plans to open more than 200 stores in LA County, during continued opposition to its proposed opening of a Chinatown grocery store.

Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, which is against the location at the outskirts of Chinatown, recently released a statement concluding that Walmart could open 212 stores in LA based on past development across the country.

Walmart has gained a 20 percent market share of the grocery industry in parts of the country, said Aiha Nguyen, the advocacy organization's senior policy analyst. Following the assumption that Walmart would try to achieve the same market share in the Los Angeles grocery industry as it has nationally, the group came to the 212 figure, she said.

The Los Angeles study was conducted in a similar fashion as one done in New York by the Alliance for a Greater New York, titled "The Walmartization of New York City."

Walmart has already announced plans to open neighborhood grocery stores in Chinatown, Panorama City and Altadena, prompting community concerns about further expansion in the county.

"(Walmart) won't be happy with 5 to 10 percent (of the market share) - it wants to achieve a certain percentage," Nguyen said. "This is what we have seen with Walmart and other retailers nationally."

Store officials say, however, such a grasp on the market share would be nearly impossible for an urban area.

Steve Restivo, a Walmart spokesman, said the released report is not supported by any facts. He said it has taken the company 50 years to reach a 20 percent market share across the country.

Urban centers comparable to Los Angeles do not have numbers near those projected by the advocacy group, he added. For example, Chicago has two neighborhood markets and New York City has none.

"We only have 181 stores in the entire state of California," Restivo said. "That number took us 15 years to achieve, to put in context."

Although Walmart only plans to open the three neighborhood grocery stores in Los Angeles for now, Restivo said the retailer is always looking for opportunities to be closer to its clients.

Yet, Los Angeles opposition to the superstore powers on this weekend. On Saturday morning, an estimated 10,000 LA residents will gather at the Los Angeles State Historic Park to march through Chinatown in an anti-Walmart demonstration, according to the Los Angeles Alliance.

Grammy award-winning musician Steve Earle posted a video to his YouTube channel Wednesday to say that if he weren't in Nashville he would be in Chinatown this weekend to participate in the protest that starts Saturday at 10am at 1245 North Spring St.

Saturday's march will be the second organized protest of the Walmart grocery store this month. The first protest occurred two weeks ago.

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