Erin Hallissy, Chronicle
Wal-Mart will move into an abandoned Macy's at Hilltop Mall in
Richmond, a move cautiously applauded by city officials who say the
mega- retailer will bring the city as much as $700,000 in new sales
Steve Duran, the city's community and economic development
director, said Wal-Mart could help attract customers to the mall and
even help surrounding shopping centers that have sprung up since
hundreds of new homes have been built in the past few years between
Richmond and Hercules.
"I think it's going to increase traffic in the whole Hilltop
area, and probably attract more businesses,'' Duran said Friday.
Still, he and others noted that Wal-Mart critics had accused it
of ruining smaller local businesses that cannot compete with its
"everyday low prices.''
"The theory that this is a zero-sum game and Wal-Mart sucks
business away from smaller stores seems to be a proposition that has
some credibility,'' said Richmond Councilman Tom Butt, who is taking
a "wait-and-see'' approach to the store. "But it seems to have more
credibility in a small-town mid-America environment than a complex
urban area. I think only time will tell.''
Wal-Mart is taking over a 150,000-square-foot space that was
vacated by Macy's seven years ago when that store moved into an old
Emporium in the same mall.
Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Loscotoff said that it was not unusual
for Wal- Mart to open in a mall, although it has mostly stand-alone
stores. The Richmond Wal-Mart will not be a super-center -- stores
that are controversial because they include a full grocery section.
Loscotoff dismissed fears that Wal-Mart would take business away
from other stores.
"All these doom-and-gloom predictions just haven't come to
fruition,'' Loscotoff said.
Duran said he didn't believe that the new Wal-Mart, which did not
need approval from the City Council because it's going into a retail
area, would hurt other businesses.
"The population is growing, and retail follows residential
growth,'' Duran said. "Hopefully there will be enough business for
Wal-Mart needs to renovate the existing three-story store at
Hilltop and build a new garden center adjoining it. Loscotoff said
it would probably be open by the middle of next year.
Along with Wal-Mart, Richmond officials are pleased that Target
plans to build a new store at a long-abandoned Montgomery Ward store
on MacDonald Avenue, which will also bring more revenue to a city
that had a $35 million deficit last year.
"Those sales tax revenues should translate into restoration of
city services,'' Duran said.
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