Council Bill Targets Wal-Mart
By Annys Shin and Michael Barbaro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 15, 2004; Page E01
Giant Food LLC and the union that represents local grocery store employees are pushing for an ordinance aimed at keeping Wal-Mart supercenters out of Montgomery County.
Wal-Mart has no supercenters in the county and says it has no plans to build one.
Giant and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 are prime advocates of the proposal before the Montgomery County Council. The measure sponsored by County Executive Douglas M. Duncan would impose tough new zoning restrictions on stores that are larger than 120,000 square feet and devote at least 10 percent of their floor space to groceries.
That defines the typical Wal-Mart supercenter, a retail behemoth that carries everything from gas grills and flat-screenTVs to produce and deli meats. Across the country, the nonunion discount stores have been a serious competitive threat to established supermarkets with their unionized workforces.
Although other Washington area jurisdictions have imposed restrictions on "big box" stores, the proposal in Montgomery County is aimed more narrowly at Wal-Mart.
It would exempt stores that do not sell food, such as most Target stores and Home Depot, and it would exempt club membership stores such as Costco.
Wal-Mart, which is based in Bentonville, Ark., has 14 of its standard discount stores and six Sam's Club stores in the Washington region. The only superstores are in Fredericksburg and Ashland.
Wal-Mart has only one of its standard-size stores in Montgomery County, in Germantown, and no plans to expand in the county, said Mia Masten, Wal-Mart's community affairs manager for the eastern region.
Still, Wal-Mart opposes the measure. "We think it's anti-competitive and anti-consumer," said Masten. "It not only affects us but other competitors who want to come into Montgomery County and offer consumers one-stop shopping, which is what consumers say they want."
Rival Target, based in Minneapolis, has its own version of supercenters that include a grocery store, but it is expanding them less aggressively than Wal-Mart. There are no SuperTargets in the area.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company