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Walmart drew Downtown protests, but why didn't Target?

By Emily Chu
Published: Friday, August 31, 2012, at 04:29PM
Brookfield Office Properties

The City Target at Figueroa and 7th will be located across Downtown from Walmart's Neighborhood Market on Cesar Chavez.

Downtown L.A. will be welcoming smaller versions of two big-box retailers in the near future: Walmart's Neighborhood Market on Cesar Chavez and City Target on Figueroa.

In response to Walmart moving to town, both politicians and local activists have spoken out at various protests; contrastingly, Target has generated positive buzz, if anything.

The two stores are more similar than different. They have competitive price points, relatively comparable shopper demographics and both are not unionized — one of the critiques levied against Walmart. So why is Downtown so welcoming toward Target, but not necessarily toward Walmart?

Real estate agent and Downtown blogger Brigham Yen noted similarities between the stores, but said the distinction between the two comes down to marketing. Target has done a better job aligning itself with more positive attributes, he said.

These attributes have influenced Nancy Burgos' opinion on the chains. She works Downtown close to the space allocated for the new CityTarget. She admitted she didn't know too much about the politics surrounding either store. Still, she purposefully avoids Walmart, but is looking forward to stopping by the Target at 7th and Figueroa.

"Walmart has got some really bad press for the way they treat their employees," Burgos said, "Target … may have questionable political views. But from what I understand, they treat their employees pretty well."

Marisol Vlachos, an associate broker working Downtown, agreed with Burgos. Vlachos said she doesn't really shop at Walmart, but only because she believes the store is overcrowded and has different quality than Target.

Employee treatment has been a central issue in the discussion about Walmart moving Downtown. Councilwoman Jan Perry pledged to reject potential campaign contributions from Walmart in June, stating Walmart's failure to offer workers a "reasonable quality of life" as the reason.

At the same time, Perry is enthusiastic about the new City Target. "Target has a very strong civic engagement program that I see time and time again," she said, "They have a good track record."

Steven Restivo, the Senior Director of Community Affairs at Walmart, sees many similarities between Target and Walmart.

"The sizes of the stores are about the same. The merchandise is about the same. The number of people working in the stores is about the same," he said.

Restivo believes the opposition to Walmart doesn't represent the majority opinion.

"I think even our loudest critics would admit that the day the store opens Downtown, there'll be thousands of locals attending," he predicts.

Ramana Mosumpake, a software engineer, said he shops at both stores. He's heard about the protests against Walmart, and agrees with them to a certain point.

"I think [Walmart] needs to raise their standards, but they should be able to do business [Downtown]," he said.

Despite this, Mosumpake said he'll check out both stores once they open.

Target could not be reached for comment.


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