CHICAGO — This city's first small-format Walmart Express store opened last week in the Chatham neighborhood, marking a significant new step in the retail giant's push into more urban areas.
The opening comes shortly after Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores teamed with First Lady Michelle Obama and a handful of other retailers in a pledge to increase access to affordable fresh foods in underserved communities, a move that drew a critical response from union officials.
The 10,000-square-foot Chatham store, one of nine Wal-Mart locations planned for Chicago, includes a wide selection of groceries as well as a pharmacy and a financial services desk center. It is the first urban test for the new small format, which debuted in rural Arkansas and North Carolina earlier this year. Local reports said additional Walmart Express stores are planned for the eastern North Carolina towns of Snow Hill and Ayden.
According to a report in Crain's Chicago Business, the Chicago location dedicates about two-thirds of its space to grocery items, and locates the pharmacy near the front of the store. At the back are 47 frozen and refrigerated doors and a 10-door beverage cooler, the report said. The store will employ 20-40 people, Crain's reported.
Three additional Express stores, plus three Walmart Market stores — more like an average supermarket in size — and two supercenters are on tap for Chicago.
Separately, in a letter published last week in the New York Times, Joseph Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, criticized the White House's recognition of Wal-Mart's plan to open stores in food deserts.
“The White House's decision to pay tribute to Wal-Mart for agreeing to open or expand stores in areas designated as ‘food deserts’ was misguided,” Hansen wrote.
He went on to write that Wal-Mart “has a history of destroying good jobs in the communities it enters and creating jobs that perpetuate the cycle of poverty — leaving more workers unable to buy healthy food for their families.”
Additional reporting by Michael Garry