There's no way to predict what's next for California, as the most cursory glance at the upcoming gubernatorial recall election illustrates.
But there are some harbingers of the tactics being used by foes of Wal-Mart Stores' plan to plant some 40 supercenters in California in upcoming years. Generally, efforts in other localities to block Wal-Mart have been focused on land-development and zoning issues. At bottom, the tactic has been to deny ground to Wal-Mart. But in California there's more: On the front page of this week's SN, you'll see a news article on the effort of a union local in Southern California to get governmental entities to pass ordinances that would require supercenters to pay prevailing wage and benefit rates.
Not only is this a different tactic, but it's seemingly an acknowledgement on the part of the local involved, at least, that Wal-Mart workers are impervious to the blandishments of organized labor. In any case, leveling the wage-and-benefit playing field would accrue to the advantage of incumbent retailing interests, but it wouldn't wipe out the price-point advantage Wal-Mart musters by operational efficiencies and deep pockets.
And, to be sure, many other measures are being pursued in California to hobble supercenter development. Among them are these: In Palm Desert, a lawsuit claiming environmental degradation was filed; in Contra Costa County, an ordinance banning supercenters altogether was authorized; in Inglewood, an ordinance was passed limiting grocery-section footage (the matter is to be put before voters), and in San Marcos, a petition calling for a vote to overturn a zoning approval is being fielded. (This roundup is based on a news article published last week in Women's Wear Daily, a unit of Fairchild Publications as is SN.)
Wal-Mart also figures in the news feature referenced on SN's front page this week. The feature has to do with the growing dichotomy between services requested from sales agencies by retailers -- services that were in the past supplied freely -- and the services sales agencies can supply currently.
Sales agencies have become highly consolidated, as have retailers and manufacturers. Now, the entire industry is challenged on the cost side by Wal-Mart, so the kind of store-coverage services previously offered are out of the question.
Bush League Bucks
Let's shift gears a bit. It was reported on the Smoking Gun web site earlier that someone was able to pass a very counterfeit $200 bill at a Food Lion in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., to pay for $150 worth of product and to obtain $50 change. (SN verified the veracity of the account with Food Lion.)
Apart from the fact there is no currency of that denomination, the bill bore numerous bogus features that might have been telltale clues. On the front was the likeness of George W. Bush, the serial number DUBYA4U2001 and a seal labeled "The Right to Bear Arms." On the back was an engraving of the White House with campaign-style signs and an oil derrick in the lawn.