Wal-Mart sets sights on local mall 

Wal-Mart continues to expand its Bay Area presence in spite of opposition to its big-box approach to retail in many local cities, including San Francisco.

The world’s largest retailer announced Monday that it will try its hand as a shopping mall anchor store for the first time in Northern California. The Arkansas-based company plans to open a new store at Richmond’s Hilltop Mall in April where, along with J.C. Penney, Macy’s and Sears, it will operate a multilevel department store, Hilltop Mall General Manager Kirk White said.

Wal-Mart has been successful as a mall anchor at several locations in Southern California, spokesman Kevin Loscotoff said.

"The reason malls want to [offer Wal-Mart space] is because it is such a big traffic generator," said White, who hopes Wal-Mart shoppers will stick around to see what other mall retailers have to offer.

The Richmond store is part of an expansion program targeting blighted or abandoned buildings, and cities across the country with high crime and high unemployment, Loscotoff said. Eight other stores, including one in Sanger, are participating in the program, according to Wal-Mart officials.

Richmond, with a population of 96,600, has seen a spike in shootings over the last year. The city’s unemployment rate stands at about 6.5 percent, compared with 3.6 percent for the San Francisco metropolitan area, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from December show.

The Richmond store will mean 350 to 375 new jobs to the area and hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales tax for city coffers, Loscotoff said.

The retail giant will provide five local businesses with an undetermined amount of in-store and newspaper advertising on a quarterly basis, Loscotoff said.

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