Wal-Mart recently hired Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta, and United Nations ambassador, to better promote the company’s image. Wal-Mart plans to service low- income areas by building 50 stores in urban communities over the next two years, as part of a goal to create between 15,000 and 25,000 jobs.
Wal-Mart has been under fire and received intense scrutiny for its labor practices – from wages to the lack of affordable health coverage for employees, and their first effort to brighten their image was hiring Young. Now, in an effort to give back, Wal-Mart is targeting those decrepit areas, to improve the employment rate.
According to the New York Times, Wal-Mart said it will build the stores in areas with high crime and/or unemployment rates, environmentally contaminated sites, or in vacant buildings or malls in need of revitalization.
Wal-Mart’s motive for this plan is “an effort to be a better community partner.”
But, some critics question Wal-Mart’s goals, due to their recent negative run-ins with the media.
“I’ve never really grown up around a local Wal-Mart, so I don’t completely understand all its hype. Local businesses never allowed a Super Wal-Mart to be established because they were afraid that their businesses would eventually crumble,” said Kenneth Sharpless, a student at Dematha Catholic High School of Hyattsville, Md.
“Because I haven’t established a bond with Wal-Mart I can easily say that I doubt their intentions are completely pure in their opening of more stores, but only time will tell,” Sharpless said.
Others feel more positively about the change, and hope to welcome Wal-Mart.
“I’ve always loved Wal-Mart due to their convenience. To know that they’re going to be opening their arms to those failing areas just lets me know that Wal-Mart always has their consumers at mind first,” said Darren Turner, a resident of Mobile, Ala.
As reported on MSNBC.com, Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., already has plans to open between 335 and 370 new U.S. stores this year after 341 last year. In addition, it sees room for more than 1,500 additional stores in the United States in the coming years, on top of nearly 3,200 it already operates.
A new store is to open on the West Side of Chicago and will anchor the first of ten such zones. The company said it will release the locations of the other zones in the coming months.