No Costco

Simon Property Group last week announced a proposal to raze the University Mall it manages and replace it with a mix of retail, medical offices and high-rise residence towers, plus some free-standing businesses like restaurants, a health club and bookstore.

The deal hinges on whether Simon, which leases the land, can work out a dispute with the landowners, a pair of real estate investment companies, over a dispute over Simon’s management of the failing mall. Those negotiations should be attempted in the next month.

We learned this much. The best bet for an anchor retailer is Target, which has built some multi-story units that rise up rather than out. Such a building would work with the parking decks that city planners hope to use on the 27-acre site so that it may be used more intensively and still provide room for some green space. Some people had hoped Costco could be attracted to the project. It’s the warehouse club with a union workforce, famous bargains on high-end goods and the biggest retail wine business in the country.

Scott Richardson, Simon’s project director, said Costco wasn’t interested in Arkansas at the moment. It’s also a poor fit for the site, he said, because it typically builds sprawling one-level stores and requires large amounts of surface parking. Maybe somewhere else someday. It is also impossible for a retailer such as Costco to sell alcohol, except at a totally separate facility.

Too sexy for Wal-Mart

Staid Wal-Mart, a buttoned-down company famous for policing raunchy lyrics in music and other values-oriented inventory policies, fed the media mill last week with the dismissal of Julie Roehm, its top marketing executive, after less than a year on the job. An assistant also was dismissed.

A variety of allegations attended the abrupt change, though Roehm disputed them — that she had an inappropriate relationship with the subordinate, that her glitzy stockholders meeting production had left old-line executives uncomfortable, that some ads she’d overseen featuring lingerie had similarly discomfited Wal-Mart execs. Finally, news accounts said, there were allegations that she’d accepted gifts from ad agencies, such as meals at fancy restaurants. Wal-Mart has a strict and lauded policy against accepting gratuities from its vendors.

But: Does Wal-Mart walk the same ethical walk in its own relationships, such as in lobbying the Arkansas legislature?

Answer: No. In addition to giving large sums in campaign contributions, it spends some relatively modest amounts on legislative entertainment. During the 2005 session, for example, the company spent $1,158 on “special events,” primarily in contributions to big parties thrown for the new House speaker and Senate president pro tem. In January of this year, it spent $3,000 to underwrite the Washington County Lincoln Day dinner, a contribution the company reported was a benefit for Rep. Horace Hardwick, a Bentonville Republican who handles Walton and Wal-Mart related legislation, such as the tax exemption for art purchased for the Walton-underwritten Crystal Bridges art museum in Bentonville.

Company spokesman Dan Tovar said the company sees its own policy on accepting gifts and giving entertainment to legislators as an “apples and oranges” comparison.

“We support elective officials on both sides of the aisle who are either pro-business or pro-Wal-Mart. They take actions on a number of important issues. We believe we have responsibilities to our customers and shareholders to work to solve challenges facing the country. That’s why we participate in those types of things and support candidates.”



Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Arkansas Times Staff

  • New episode of Rock the Culture: "People's Police"

    In this week’s episode, Antwan and Charles provide perspective and conversation on the ongoing contract negotiations between Little Rock Education Association and Little Rock School District regarding Fair Teacher Dismissal Act, the Little Rock Mayoral Runoff Election, and lack of coverage of white nationalist’s rally. In addition, they interview Sgt. Willie Davis of the Little Rock Police Department regarding importance of community policing and his involvement in the O.K. Program, a mentoring program for teenage black males.
    • Nov 13, 2018
  • New episode of Rock the Culture: "Vote for a Change"

    In this week’s episode, Antwan and Charles provide perspective and conversation on the 2018 local elections in Little Rock and Central Arkansas.
    • Nov 8, 2018
  • New episode of Out in Arkansas: "The Rainbow Wave"

    Out in Arkansas’s hosts Traci Berry and Angie Bowen talk about all the things because all the things are LGBTQ things. This week they talk about the outcome of the mid-term elections and finding positives in even the smallest steps of progress, as well as what comes next. It doesn’t stop with our votes! Thank you for listening! #outinarkansas #beinggayinthesouth #dontbeadouche #beadecentperson
    • Nov 8, 2018
  • More »

Latest in Smart Talk

  • Better than Texas

    Arkansas's tax system is slightly more friendly to the poorest people, but only slightly.
    • Aug 24, 2011
  • Small-school champions

    Two Arkansas congressmen are among the 14 sponsors of a bill that would "correct" a provision of the federal school-funding formula they say favors large school districts over small districts.
    • Aug 24, 2011
  • Bipartisan race

    The rise of Republicanism in Arkansas has brought a rare two-party race to the state Senate in Southeast Arkansas, traditionally a Democratic stronghold.
    • Aug 24, 2011
  • More »

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments


© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation