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The Superstore Challenge

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Following the recent successful community campaign to keep Wal-Mart out of Inglewood, Los Angeles continues to move ahead in the effort to mitigate the “Wal-Mart effect.”

Thirteen of the fifteen members of the Los Angeles City Council support a proposed law that calls for certain superstores to perform additional fiscal and social due diligence. If it passes on Tuesday, the ordinance will require an economic study that “would forecast whether a proposed store would eliminate jobs, depress wages or harm neighborhood businesses in many parts of the city,” according to the L.A Times. Retail environments larger than 100,000 square feet with 10% of the space dedicated to nontaxable merchandise would be held to this development condition.

The complexities and paradoxes of globalized retailing once again reveal themselves. Opposing sides are pleased with this measure. While Council members, labor groups, and progressive activists tout the ordinance, Wal-Mart also sees it as a potential victory. From Wal-Mart's POV, this law is preferable to what could have been a far stricter regulatory measure. The outright ban against large-scale retailers in low income communities that Councilmen Ed Reyes and Eric Garcetti initially introduced was thwarted, and instead evolved into the proposal currently on the table.

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We'll soon know if city residents will be able to get their hands on the latest Mary-Kate and Ashley fashions at nearby future locations. If not, the South L.A. store will remain the lone Wal-Mart outpost within Los Angeles city limits.