business news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Financial Times reports that as part of Walmart’s announced new small store strategy that the company has said will give it a way of gaining footholds in urban markets it has thus far been unable to penetrate, the retailer is “acquiring sites of 20,000 to 35,000 sq ft in more suburban areas of both north and south California, according to a number of real estate brokers in the state. They say Walmart is looking at existing retail locations for its Neighborhood Market grocery stores.”

And Reuters reports that “Wal-Mart Stores Inc's U.S. management will be in the cross-hairs at the company's investor meeting this week, where Wall Street analysts will press for details on rescuing the retailer's largest business.”

On the hot seat will be Bill Simon, the new CEO of the US business, who will be asked to explain the new small store strategy and other initiatives.

According to Reuters, Walmart has been getting hit from both sides: “Sales at U.S. Wal-Mart stores open at least a year have fallen in five straight quarters, hurt by competition from lower-priced dollar stores and an economy that has allowed some shoppers to move up to rivals such as Target Corp.”

• In Canada, the CBC reports that “workers at a Wal-Mart store in Gatineau, Que., have won a new collective agreement, only the second at any Wal-Mart store in North America - but not everyone is celebrating. A government arbitrator imposed the agreement, after negotiations between the union and retailer were judged to be going nowhere.

“The contract covers more than 150 employees at the store on Boulevard du Plateau. It took three years for the United Food and Commercial Workers to unionize the store, and another two years to get the contract ... The arbitrator modeled it on the contract at the Wal-Mart in St-Hyacinthe, Que., the only other store with such an agreement.”

According to the story, the workers will get a 30 cents per hour wage increase, and an identical raise next year.

The CBC writes, “The union said employees at the store were concerned by Wal-Mart's previous actions at unionized stores, but the Gatineau location is busy, and they hope Wal-Mart will not close it In 2005, Wal-Mart closed a store in Jonquiere, Que., days before an arbitrator imposed a contract for its employees. The employees took Wal-Mart to court over the closure but lost their case.”
KC's View:
I hope that the members of the MNB community that think I spend too much time writing about Walmart will concede this morning that the Bentonville Behemoth is doing things that are making news...and therefore worth coverage.