business news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Los Angeles Times reports that the City Council there will consider an ordinance that would prevent “formula retail” stores - meaning those with “ standardized facades, color schemes, decor, employee uniforms and merchandise” - from opening in the city’s Chinatown.

The ordinance is being proposed about a month after Walmart announced plans to open a 33,000 square foot supermarket in - wait for it - Chinatown.

The story notes that the sponsors of the bill have bypassed the usual process of having a public hearing on the proposal, and that it will be voted on tomorrow. While Walmart does not need council approval because it is moving into an existing building, it will need construction permits ... and the sponsors seem to be hoping that by passing this bill quickly, they will be able to throw a roadblock in front of Walmart, which had numerous issues in California when it tried to open bigger stores there.

And, the Times writes, “Opponents warned that (the) proposal could block a wide range of chain businesses from opening in Chinatown, including banks, grocery stores, fast-food places and Boba tea houses.”

No surprise that Walmart is facing opposition, though it is a little distressing that they’re trying to do it by circumventing the system that allows for public comment. Silly me, but I’d want to hear from people in the neighborhood - not just other businesses that may be affected, but also from local residents who may be yearning for a mainstream grocery store to be within walking distance.

Bloomberg reports this morning that Walmart will pay $2.1 million in fines to the state of California “for overcharging consumers in violation of a 2008 agreement to stop scanning errors that resulted in customers paying more for products than their shelf price.”

As a result of the 2008 agreement, the story says, “consumers who were overcharged at cash registers received $3 off the lowest advertised price of the item, and if the price was less than $3, Wal-Mart was required to give the item free of charge, according to the statement. Today’s judgment means the program, originally intended to end in November, will be extended to November 2013.”
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