Urban Areas are Newest Markets for Big Box Retailers

The nation's cities are the new growth area for big-box retailers, including two of the largest, Walmart and Target. The latter company is exploring opening its first store in San Francisco, and on the East Coast will be opening its first store in Manhattan later this month. Target already has stores in the outer boroughs of New York City, but its East Harlem store will be its first on Manhattan island.

In San Francisco, Target has scheduled a community meeting for July 21 to discuss the proposed location for its first store in the city, according to a report published in the San Francisco Chronicle. The meeting is the first step required to obtain permission to open a retail outlet under the city's strict rules regulating chain stores.

Less than one year ago, the San Francisco Planning Commission approved a proposal for retailers Marshalls and Home Goods to occupy vacant space in a struggling shopping center in the Richmond District near Laurel Heights, but the companies never followed through. While that approval might seem to be a positive sign for Target, San Francisco has a reputation as being less than welcoming to chain stores.

Target has considered locations in San Francisco for several years, according to the article. The company already operates numerous stores in the Bay Area, and it has acquired sites in Oakland and San Jose for stores that may open as soon as 2011.

In Chicago, the City Council's recent unanimous vote approving a zoning change clears the way for the construction of the city's second Walmart store, to be located on the Far South Side. The vote came after a multi-year battle with Walmart, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce facing off against unions, labor-backed aldermen and social activists. To win approval from opposing groups, Walmart agreed that the Chicago stores will be union-built, and that entry-level wages would be $8.75 per hour, 50 cents above Illinois' minimum wage, according to a report in Chain Store Age.

Several days prior to the July 1 city council vote, Walmart said it was planning several dozen stores in Chicago that would add 12,000 jobs over five years and more than $500 million in sales and property taxes, according to the company's own estimates.
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