Wal-Mart: Wrong Approach, But Will Forge Ahead in L.A.
Wal-Mart chief executive officer H. Lee Scott admitted Wednesday the company had made a mistake in its failed efforts to build a supercenter in Inglewood, Calif., but it's still pushing ahead with plans to open up to 25 stores in the state this year.
LOS ANGELES — Wal-Mart chief executive officer H. Lee Scott admitted Wednesday the company had made a mistake in its failed efforts to build a supercenter in Inglewood, Calif., but it’s still pushing ahead with plans to open up to 25 stores in the state this year.
“We went through a process [in Inglewood] that didn’t go through city hall,” said Scott, speaking in a conservative slate blue suit and light blue tie. “And as a big company that came across as arrogant and it didn’t go over very well.”
Wal-Mart, which has encountered resistance to its expansion plans in New York, Chicago and other locales, has come under attack from organized labor, and Scott conceded at a retail conference last year that management had failed in getting out the company’s message. Scott’s appearance Wednesday was part of an effort, including a national advertising campaign, to rectify those mistakes, and marks the first of several appearances this year in key cities around the U.S., including Los Angeles and Chicago.
Scott said the company plans to open 25 more stores in California in 2005, including one in Los Angeles. But the one being built in L.A. will not be a superstore, while some of the others will be.
“We’re more fortunate to get stores in the Valley than in L.A.,” Scott said. “But supercenters will do well here and the battle will go on long after I’m gone, because people here need it.”
Voters in Inglewood, a working class suburb of Los Angeles, weren’t so sure that they needed a Wal-Mart in their neighborhood, and voted last April to reject a ballot initiative that would have allowed construction of a 60-acre Wal-Mart shopping center exempt from most state and local regulations. A coalition of churches, unions and community groups said the development would have hurt small retailers and taken away the city’s legal, environmental and planning powers.
Despite the controversy, Scott said California was a very favorable place for the company to do business and to expand, calling it “a great state in spite of itself.” But he said the retailer would only reapproach Inglewood if he was positive it would be approved.Said Scott, “I feel sorry for Inglewood. Today there’s nothing there creating economic value or better prices for the people.”
Scott also addressed the issue of wages and health benefits numerous times, as the company has come under increasing scrutiny for child-labor violations, the largest-ever workplace discrimination lawsuit and allegations that it depresses wages and provides inadequate employee benefits.
“Wal-Mart is nothing remotely like the horror story out of Dickens that our critics are peddling,” said Scott. “It is true, however…that retailing generally pays lower frontline wages than other industries that require more specialized education or skills.”
Scott, who was clearly on a mission, charmed the audience of mostly business executives, who often clapped and laughed with him, many nodding in agreement when he said he’s been “shocked” by the intense criticism of the company. Scott also displayed an uncanny ability to recall the many critics who have approached him at meetings such as this — including, once, a nun.
“The failure of people like me to come to people like you has allowed our critics to bamboozle the people and the press.”
In an effort to set the record straight, he said the company creates jobs that many small entities could not provide, adding that the average wage is $10 an hour and that the company offers low monthly premiums for health insurance and other benefits such as a 401(k) plan, merchandise discounts, performance bonuses and more.
“If Wal-Mart weren’t an attractive place to work, we wouldn’t find ourselves, as we typically do, with thousands of applications for the hundreds of jobs we create when we open a new store,” Scott said.
Most importantly, pointed out Scott, the people have spoken in favor of Wal-Mart. “Even if you could stop Wal-Mart, other value retailers will fill the void,” he said. “You cannot pass enough laws or regulations to stop consumers from expecting, even demanding, value.”
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye
Did you know: @carlychaikin of "Mr. Robot" has been painting for about a decade? The actress, who plays Darlene on the show, is a self-taught artist who lists Salvador Dalí and Chuck Close as some of her idols. Chaikin told WWD that painting is a form of meditation for her — A much-needed one given the intensity of "Mr. Robot." See a piece Chaikin is working on at WWD.com (📷: @jilliansollazzo) #wwdeye