business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports on how retailers such was Wal-Mart, Costco, and Home Depot are “beginning to respond to community groups' complaints that their stores are hulking eyesores. Sometimes they are making changes that are merely cosmetic. But the chains are also more willing to abandon their usual architectural formats in order to blend in with the surrounding area…even if it means added expense.”

Costco CFO Richard Galanti tells the WSJ, "Now that there are more of us and real estate is harder to find, they're demanding more of us.”

Critics, however, say that the changes are purely cosmetic and don’t address issues like traffic congestion and the negative impact on local businesses.

The WSJ writes that “while Costco makes design changes only if asked or if necessary, the increasingly embattled Wal-Mart has started offering communities a menu of styles from the outset and actively seeking out neighborhood groups and city planners early on.” The new Wal-Mart approach was mandated by CEO Lee Scott, who has expressed concerns about the company’s battered reputation.
KC's View:
We think both sides are right on this one. The big box stores are absolutely correct to address community concerns…but activists are equally justified in their concerns that the solutions being presented are cosmetic.

This battle is just beginning.