Think small businesses fear the price-slashing competitive tactics of Wal-Mart? Well, you'd be wrong. That is, if you go by a Wal-Mart-funded survey of New York City businesses with 50 employees or less.
New York City small business owners favor bringing Walmart to the five boroughs by a count of 62% to 27%, according to a survey released Monday by the retail giant.
In an effort to strike a preemptive blow to a City Council hearing next month that is expected to be loaded with Walmart opponents, the survey was conducted by noted Democratic pollster Doug Schoen. It randomly sampled 400 New York City small businesses with 50 employees or less and asked owners or senior executives whether they wanted Walmart to come to town. Support among small retailers was weakest, with 55% in favor versus 36% against. Service-oriented businesses favored a Walmart by 65% to 25% and commercial businesses were most adamant in their endorsement, at 75% to 19%.
The top reason given by respondents favoring a giant Wal-Mart box somewhere in New York was the belief that it would create jobs, followed by more product choices and lower prices.
Wal-Mart has been trying for years to tap into the massive New York market but has been repeatedly thwarted. Many opponents question what net effect a Wal-Mart store would have on job creation, given that the presence of the retailer known for rock-bottom prices is likely to put more than a few mom-and-pop sized shops out of business.
Polling, of course, is a shady business and rarely do you ever get to see exactly how the questions are framed and you only get a vague sense of who is being interviewed. But let's assume that the findings are accurate and small businesses aren't intimidated by Wal-Mart entering their turf. Why could that be?
I've got a couple of thoughts. First, a great number of stores in New York are either highly specialized or have a loyal customer base that won't be sucked away by Wal-Mart. Second, the stores New Yorkers frequent often have as much to do with convenience as anything. Ever try lugging your groceries home on a crowded subway?
But if Wal-Wart wants in, I'm not clear on why it should be stopped. Ultimately, competition is good for businesses and there just seems something wrong with politicians seeking to block Wal-Mart from the city when it's already home to Target and Home Depot stores.
MATT QUINN contributes to the Wall Street Journal's corporate finance blog. He has also written extensively about banking and corporate finance for publications including Inc., American Banker, and Financial Week. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.