Wal-Mart: Bigger than the Big Apple?

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WalmartAt some point in the last fiscal quarter, Wal-Mart’s total U.S. retail square footage surpassed the land mass of Manhattan, at 22.98 square miles versus 22.7.

In addition to the mind-bending image that this creates, this development is interesting because the two giants don’t like each other. Wal-Mart’s efforts to gain a foothold in the borough have been vigorously repelled by the natives. In response, Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. had the following to say in a March interview with The New York Times.

New_york_3 “I don’t care if we are ever here.” With which gestures do you think New Yorkers let him know the feeling was mutual? “It’s too hard to make money here.” You don’t say. Nobody in New York ever worries about this.

And this particularly fine piece of plain-folks pique: “You have people who are just better than us.” Do you think his favorite song begins with, “Start spreadin’ the news…”?

The biggest criticism of Wal-Mart is that it ruins communities by pricing local retailers out of business while offering only low-paying jobs with no benefits. Another complaint is that Wal-Mart is just too big; even investors are grumbling about store saturation.

Put all this together and you have a very plausible conspiracy theory: Wal-Mart intends to transplant all of its stores to Manhattan, completely covering the island and forcing everyone and everything to leave.

They could assemble the stores and with a very large winch – available at Always Low Prices – lift them over the borough and just drop them. A considerable one-time expense, but it would be sweet revenge and a clever way to reduce by a large number the liberal media and union workers, two of Wal-Mart’s most pesky foes.   

I’d like to propose a more constructive strategy. Move the stores to Tuvalu.  Tuvalu is the fourth-smallest country in the United Nations, a collection of nine coral atolls halfway between Hawaii and Australia. At 10.04 square miles, the nation’s land mass is less than one third of Wal-Mart’s worldwide retail space.

Tuvalu has become a global warming symbol. The island’s high point is 16 feet above sea level, and some climate change models anticipate that rising ocean levels will likely swamp the nation and its 12,000 residents at some point in this century.

(Have you noticed that climate change research is full of “may,” “likely,” and “probably”? “Sea levels may rise ten feet.” “I may win the lottery this week.”  “The planet will probably see air temperatures rise three degrees." "My husband will probably take out the garbage tonight.”). So for the environmental crowd and our fear-loving media, the plight of Tuvalu has become a favored citation of our certain doom.   

The benefits of such a move would be considerable for the company.  Labor costs would plummet and sluggish same-store sales growth figures would vanish. As a green maneuver, it would please and confuse liberals and at least for a time stop them from burning crosses on Wal-Mart’s lawns. As the only employer on the island, Wal-Mart would have considerable leverage over the local population. “They want unions? Let ‘em eat kelp.”

For the islanders, the benefits would be even more pronounced. In addition to full employment, adding the stores would raise the island’s elevation by at least 30 feet. Everyone could live in low-cost company housing built on the roofs. As sea levels rose, provisions would simply be moved to higher shelves, easily retrieved via low-cost trapdoors and ladders.

Wal-Mart Travel would deliver to the South Pacific – in low-cost planes and cruise ships – bereft American shoppers, longing for the opportunity to again experience Always Low Prices, and now in a spectacular single package destination. “It’s a small store, after all.”

Perhaps it would make sense to expand the operation to the nation of Nauru, also in the South Pacific and at 8.11 square miles even smaller than Tuvalu.

That would leave a few square miles of U.S. stores, which could be exported to the only two members of the United Nations smaller than these islands. At .75 square miles, Wal-Mart Monaco would replace Europe’s most fashionable casinos with a much-needed dose of low-end American retail, leaving plenty of store footprint for Wal-Mart Vatican City, featuring the PopePourri product line. 

There are innumerable cost inefficiencies in The New Testament, what with fig trees that don’t produce fruit when desired and swine being cast into the sea. Imagine what Wal-Mart could do for all of us if it expanded its reach beyond the secular realm with the help of its new partners in Rome.  Heaven is long overdue for re-branding.

The downside would be the loss of about 1.4 million American jobs. But the liberal politicians can solve that problem.  And we can start complaining about Target.

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