Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Facile reporting on Walmart

There are two elements to Walmart's product mix in their superstores:  (1) food/groceries; and (2) other goods (hard goods like appliances and soft goods like apparel). 

DC, except in a couple areas of the city, is not significantly under-stored in terms of supermarkets, even if there is that perception, although granted this has changed significantly in the past 5 years.  DC is under-stored in terms of the availability of hard and soft goods.

A couple years ago I did a bit of mapping of existing supermarkets in the Capitol Hill and Upper Northwest parts of the city ("Mapping retail trade areas for DC supermarkets"), many months before Walmart indicated that they were going to enter the DC market. 

Both areas have a great deal of grocery store coverage (Greater Capitol Hill has even more now that additional stores have opened on both the north and south sides of the district, with more on the way).

Upper Northwest (mapped at a 3 mile radius of existing large format supermarkets--note that since this map was made, the Safeway at Petworth was shut down and is being rebuilt)

Capitol Hill (mapped at a 3 mile radius of existing large format supermarkets--note that since this map was made, a Giant Supermarket has opened on H Street NE and a Harris Teeter will be opening next year in the Capitol Riverfront district, each will be followed by a Whole Foods)

I mention this because today's Post claims that these areas, both served by new Walmart stores which opened yesterday, are underserved by supermarkets. From "Wal-Mart opens first two district stores":
[Mayor] Gray ... attended the opening of the Georgia Avenue store, ticking off such benefits as reducing 'retail leakage' to the suburbs and the number of 'food deserts.' ....

Near the front of the Georgia Avenue store, shoppers loaded up on $2.50 pineapples and $1.98 cantaloupes in a neighborhood that's long relied on corner convenient [sic] stores, with their canned and frozen goods.
Note that the Georgia Avenue Walmart is located 1.7 miles from the once and future Safeway at 3830 Georgia Avenue NW in Petworth and 1/2 mile from the Safeway at 6500 Piney Branch Road NW.

This isn't a food desert, and people aren't reliant on convenience stores for grocery shopping.

It's not the end of the world, and it is correct to call attention to the greater availability of hard and soft goods as a result of Walmart's entry, but it is sloppy reporting to claim that either Upper Northwest or Greater Capitol Hill are food deserts.

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At 7:00 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Almost makes you wonder if Walmart funded the food desert people. Naw, they couldn't be that sneaky!

I must admit I've only been to one or two walmarts for food purposes. I've read the produce is high quality. Probably better than Aldi or Trader Joes.

I keep bringing this up, but the best thing you can do for poor people is this city is removing the 10% meals tax on small meals. Until then it will be more efficient to box boxes of food which is awful for you.

(yes, this goes against the grain, but I think a bigmac is better for you than cooking 6 hot dogs for dinner)

At 7:52 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

1. In response to your earlier writings, I forgot to mention that around 2005-2006, Walmart introduced an upscale store in the Highland Park area of Dallas.

2. Yes, their produce is probably decent, and better than Aldi and Trader Joes (or Mexican Fruit).

3. The big issue beyond 6 hot dogs vs. a Big Mac is knowing how to cook. Most people don't. Note that carry out purchased meals aren't any better than a Big Mac.

But it is true, again, what you say. For the longest time, Murray's has been one of the only food stores operating in many of DC's more impoverished neighborhoods (they are a firm that focuses on inner city neighborhoods in DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, etc.) and yes, they sell a lot of boxed meats and processed foods in large sizes, foods that aren't great.

Although to its credit, Murray's will add small produce sections to their stores. They did for the H St. store, and I used to buy stuff there.

At 9:14 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

disagree about cooking.

Yes, the skill set is lacking. No arugment there.

But bulk food buying is cheaper when you can make a lot of food (and healthier). Say a $45 trip. Yes, that might be 7 meals at around 6.42 a meal.

Or go to Chiptole and get a very decent meal for $7. Of course without a tax it would only be around $6.

(sure, remove the tax and some prices will just bump up. Other won't. )

Cash flow.

Carrefour can be quite high end, when the choose. I can't say about the french ones, but the ones in spain were relatively "urban" but did have parking.

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

There used to be a chinese place on Connecticut Ave. NW between R and S that had a daily special around $4.50, even with tax it was less than $5 and you didn't have to tip and they'd give you extra rice. Similarly the basic nachos at Baja Fresh are about $6, even with tax. And that is relatively healthy and fills you up, yes.

I think about pricing a lot in meals. Of course, it all depends on how much meat you consume. At home, we don't prepare a lot of meat, we cook chicken, turkey sausage, and shrimp mostly. (Now that we have a great hood vent, maybe we'll start cooking fish more, before I was concerned about the smell.)

But we eat a lot of meatless meals or low meat meals (curries, quesadillas, rice and beans, chili with vegetables only or turkey, etc.) which makes a big difference.

(Because I worked for a nutrition group for four years I try to eat lower on the food chain.)

So if half your meals are non-meat, you can reduce your costs significantly.

At 12:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So if half your meals are non-meat, you can reduce your costs significantly."

Except that it leaves me still hungry. No cost savings there.

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

At 4:29 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

thanks! Good story too in the Post a couple days ago about bank tellers.

Anyway, if wages go up, so will prices. We'll be more like Europe or Canada in terms of pricing. Things won't be quite as cheap.

At 4:39 PM, Blogger IMGoph said...

Worth noting that another store on these maps has closed - the Giant on Queens Chapel in Hyattsville.


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