New York City Business Owners to Walmart: Welcome!

Last Updated Dec 13, 2010 4:40 PM EST


New York City is the only major American market where the world's biggest retailer does not have a physical retail presence. As you might suspect, the folks in Bentonville want to change that. As you might not suspect, a new survey suggests that small business people would be happy for Walmart to come to New York.

The survey, it must be said, was paid for by Walmart. The company is seeking to establish its first stores in the city and faces opposition from critics who say it will destroy small businesses. If so, the people about to be destroyed don't seem to mind the prospect.

As reported in the Crain's New York Business newsweekly, small business owners responding to the poll were strongly in favor of Walmart coming to New York. The actual margin was 62 percent for, versus 27 percent against.

Anticipating objections based on the fact that it was conducting the poll in order to undercut opponents, Walmart chose Doug Schoen, a pollster regarded as epitomizing respectability and objectivity. Schoen is, furthermore, closely tied to the Democratic party.

Lacking traction for charges of intentional bias, critics of the poll's results were reduced to complaining about the fact that Walmart felt it needed to conduct such a poll. The irony in the fact that their opposition prompted the poll was apparently lost on them.

The surveyors randomly chose 400 businesses with 50 or fewer employees and asked owners or senior executives whether they wanted Walmart to come to town. Big and small, service or retail, the overwhelming sentiment among them all favored Walmart. Citywide, the weakest support was among small retailers, who still favored Walmart's entrance by 55 percent to 36 percent against.

The survey also asked why respondents answered as they did. Job creation was the most-cited reason for backing Walmart. Another was that Walmart would give consumers lower prices and more choices. Respondents also favored allowing consumers to make their own shopping decisions, rather than permitting lawmakers to ban certain retailers.

Walmart's case will be considered at a January New York City council hearing. Walmart itself may or may not be represented at the meeting. The company is reportedly looking for New York City sites that won't require council approval.

If you're facing the entry of Walmart into your own market, you could use the results of the Walmart-funded study as an indication of how worried you should be. In this regard, the implications are clear: If you run a service business or a B2B operation, don't sweat it. About 65 percent of service companies support Walmart, while 75 percent of commercial businesses do.

Some retailers certainly may fade under the withering competition of Walmart. Other kinds of businesses, however, blossom and bear fruit -- maybe even, before long, a Big Apple.

Mark Henricks has reported on business, technology and other topics for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, and other leading publications long enough to lay somewhat legitimate claim to being The Article Authority. Follow him on Twitter @bizmyths.

Image courtesy of Flickr user mjb84, CC2.0

  • Mark Henricks

    Mark Henricks' reporting on business and other topics has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Inc., Entrepreneur, and many other leading publications. He lives in Austin, Texas, where myth looms as large as it does anywhere.