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December 22, 2009
Icky PR as Walmart Loses a Store Site

Walmart tried for several years to win approval of a 250,000-square-foot supercenter in Central Pennsylvania's North Cornwall Township, but the plan provoked strong local opposition, and this month, Walmart announced it's dropping the site.

The e-mail the retail giant sent in making the announcement seemed a last poke at the opposition, an example of icky PR.

"The economics of the project just didn't work to allow us to help our customers save money so they can live better,"  said Walmart spokesman Jason Kilpa.

Thousands of those potential customers opposed the store site. Their lives are definitely improved by Walmart's withdrawal. What does it gain by ignoring that sentiment, trying to one-up the opposition one last time? It would have been far better simply to say the plan didn't work out, and they regret that.

Walmart has two other supercenters not far from the rejected site. Its cloying language didn't seem calculated to bring battle-scarred shoppers to them. This constitutes truly poor PR. 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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