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The New York Times this morning reports on a meeting between its editors and Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott, where he told them that he didn’t care if Wal-Mart ever opened a store in the Big Apple, and that all the expense and exasperation isn’t worth the effort.

Scott’s comments, according to the Times, “amounted to a surprising admission of defeat, given the company’s vigorous efforts to crack into urban markets and expand beyond its suburban base in much of the country. In recent years, Wal-Mart has encountered stout resistance to its plans to enter America’s bigger cities, which stand as its last domestic frontier.

“Much of the opposition to Wal-Mart in cities like New York is led by unions. Organized labor, fearing that the retailer’s low prices and modest wages will undercut unionized stores, have built anti-Wal-Mart alliances with Democratic members of city councils.” And in his comments to the Times, Scott conceded that “unions are the glue” in the markets that have expressed the most vociferous and effective opposition to Wal-Mart.

Subsequent to the Scott interview, Wal-Mart spokesman Mona Williams attempted to spin his remarks, saying that he only meant Manhattan, not the other four boroughs of the city. Wal-Mart has tried to open stores in Brooklyn and Staten Island, but has been turned away by community and political opposition.

The Times reports that Scott also pointed to snobbish elites as being one of the problems that Wal-Mart has faced in some marketing, saying, “You have people who are just better than us and don’t want a Wal-Mart in their community.”
KC's View:
We’re guessing that Scott meant to say “people who think they are better than us.” Still, that’s an interesting slip of the tongue…

We actually think that New York area retailers shouldn’t get too complacent about Wal-Mart not coming to town. We suspect that the Bentonville Behemoth is just beating a tactical retreat, but still will be on the lookout for the right opportunity that will offer it a way of getting in under the radar.

And speaking of tactical retreats but not surrender, check out our next story…