A beautiful new Safeway opened recently in Bethesda, MD, where I live. It’s just a couple of blocks from a nearly-new Giant supermarket. To attract shoppers, Safeway sold turkeys before Thanksgiving for 39 cents a pound. Maybe it was 33 cents. In any event, I hope we can all agree that this kind of thing–namely, competition–is what makes America great.
Except, that is, if you live nearby in Washington, D.C., where, as The Washington Post reports today, Safeway poses big hurdle to plan for Southeast Wal-Mart.
Walmart, it so happens, wants to open a new store at a long-neglected shopping center known as Skyland in one of the low-income precincts Washington. The trouble is, a Safeway across the street has a covenant from the 1990s that prevents a competitor from locating in Skyland. Safeway, to its credit, has 15 stores in the district and is one of the city’s biggest employers. But why it was given a promise that no competitor would locate nearby is anybody’s guess.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s office says hizzoner is trying to work out a compromise with Safeway.
Craig Muckle, Safeway’s manager of public affairs, tells The Post:
We want to be cooperative, but there is a reason that the covenant is in place to protect our interests.
Give him credit for honesty, if not for his faith in markets. He goes on to explain that city neighborhoods, unlike the suburbs, may not have enough buying power to support two big grocery stores.
In the city, with one possible exception, there is no grocery store directly across the street from another grocery store….To have more than one…someone may survive, someone may not.
Quelle horreur! Competition that results in winners and losers is evidently fine when it comes to the Superbowl, political campaigns and even suburban shopping, but not when it comes to buying groceries in your nation’s capital.