In This Section

On a bank of the Bronx River, below the roar of the Bruckner Expressway, Walmart has finally found a foothold in a city that has long shunned it.

Walmart’s e-commerce business,, is leasing a 205,000-square-foot warehouse in the Bronx that will soon begin supplying MacBooks and organic eggs to New York’s well-heeled shoppers.

The physical presence is a victory for the nation’s largest retailer, which has faced resistance from labor groups and their political allies every time it has proposed opening a store in the five boroughs. But it’s also an acknowledgment that the company’s longtime national strategy won’t work in certain big cities.

With a revamped Jet’s new push into New York, Walmart is trying to reach beyond its core base of big-box stores in rural and suburban America and compete for higher-income urbanites. A retailing empire built on no frills and low prices, Walmart is using Jet to entice millennials and young families with trendy, premium products like Big Gay Ice Cream and Dr. Martens shoes.

“We believe we can win in New York,” Jet’s president, Simon Belsham, said in an interview.

By acquiring stand-alone businesses, Walmart has been able to avoid the political furor it typically sets off in left-leaning cities where there is deep support for the unions that Walmart has rebuffed. Jet is also pushing to grow its business in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington.

It’s a more subtle approach. Walmart agreed to buy Jet, which is based in Hoboken, N.J., for $3.3 billion in 2016 and has preserved the company’s distinct purple logo. Jet’s packages are being ferried around New York by Parcel, a Brooklyn delivery service that Walmart acquired last year. Parcel delivery vans bear no obvious markings of their parent company.

It also helps that Walmart’s status as a lightning rod may be diminishing as working conditions at Amazon make it the target du jour.

The retailer’s previous attempts to enter the New York market, in Queens and then in Brooklyn, ended in stinging defeat. Activists and city leaders turned the proposed stores into a referendum on Walmart’s labor practices.

As recently as 2014, nearly half the City Council accused the Walton Family Foundation, which is funded by the company’s founding family, of trying to curry favor with New Yorkers by donating “toxic money” to local efforts to support charter schools.

This time around, many city leaders either declined interview requests or did not return requests for comment on Jet’s growth plans in New York. Some are skeptical, even if they are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

“Walmart may think they have found a new, under-the-radar path into New York City by buying up businesses already here, but we should not be fooled,” Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, a Democrat, said in a statement. “We intend to be watching very carefully.”

Liberals hold at least as much sway over New York politics as they did when Walmart tried to open a store in Brooklyn in 2011. But since then, some activists say, their concerns about labor and the broader economy have moved beyond Walmart.

Maritza Silva-Farrell, executive director of the labor and community group Align, worked to sink Walmart’s plans to open a store in the East New York section of Brooklyn. She and others argued that Walmart’s low prices would endanger local businesses and that its lower wages would depress pay at other retailers.

Ms. Silva-Farrell said she was still concerned about Walmart’s business model. But Amazon, she said, is becoming “a world threat” as the company increasingly dictates the global supply chain and broadens into manufacturing.


To read the full article, visit The New York Times