Target, Walmart, and jobs


New development projects in San Francisco, no matter how bizarre or inappropriate, always round up supporters who talk about jobs. Building housing for multimillionaires on the waterfront? Hey -- it creates jobs. Bring chain stores into the city? Jobs. Tax breaks for tech firms? Jobs.

But there's increasing evidence that big-box retail like Target doesn't create jobs in a city like San Francisco. In fact, the big chains destroy more jobs than they create, leading to greater unemployment and economic problems. Sup. Eric Mar has been looking into the impact Target -- which has a store downtown and wants to open one on Geary and Masonic -- will have on the neighborhoods, and he told us recently that the preliminary figures show a net LOSS of 1,300 jobs to San Francisco. And that's just in the first year.

Target kills small businesses. Small businesses employ more San Franciscans than any of the largest employers in town. And the number of jobs destroyed by cut-throat competition from the chains exceeds the number of (minimum-wage) jobs created by big box.

Dana Woldow, in the course of writing about school food, gets into some of this in some detail, citing research showing that Wal-Mart kills more jobs in cities that it creats. Wal-Mart, of course, creates jobs that pay so little that its employees often go on public assistance to make ends meet.

Look: You can build a nuclear power plant in Golden Gate Park and create construction jobs. So the argument that development creates jobs for the building trades is almost circular logic. You can't defend a project that will have a terrible long-term impact on the city just because some people get employed constructing it.

And it turns out that you can't defend the Malling of San Francisco on the grounds that it creates permanent jobs, either.

I'd like to see an analysis of the net impact -- over, say, five years -- of how tax breaks aimed at individual companies, like Twitter, on the city's employment picture. Because tax breaks cost jobs, too -- public-sector jobs. Not saying Twitter is a net jobs negative, but we ought to know the entire score.


The jobs argument is the economic argument of the crack head searching for rocks in the cracks of the pavement.

Teach a man to search for rocks in the cracks of the sidewalk and he will get high for 15 min, teach a man to grow coca leaves, and he'll put a wedge between his cheek and gums and smile with a nice "lick the bag clean" buzz for a lifetime.

Posted by marcos on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

old Mervyns's store that I don't recall you objecting to when it opened. In fact, Mervyn's and Target were both part of the old Dayton Hudson empire, so it's really a like-for-like.

Likewise, the downtown Target simply replaces the old, ill-fated Sony Mall. While there is no WalMart planned for San Francisco.

It's a non-issue. What SF has really lacked, until now, is a super-cheap place to buy provisions that isn't a club like Costco's. This will help poor families.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 2:01 pm

Almost every single person I know goes out to that Target in Colma to shop for essentials on the weekend - and Colma no doubt loves that sales tax revenue San Francisco misses out on. I still shop at small local stores like Papenhausen but for some things Target is better.

Let's leave that massive building on Geary and Masonic empty and rotting as a testament to the power of small business in San Francisco. That'll teach everyone a lesson they'll never forget.

Posted by Troll II on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 2:30 pm

Not only is your glass perpetually half full in every situation, but its half full of manure.

Posted by Greg on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 3:34 pm

It closed, likely what Target will do in a few years.

Posted by matlock on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

So now it's a Target - so what? Only Tim would whine when a department store becomes, er, another department store.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 5:02 am

As already noted, the proposed Target simply replaces a "big-box" store on a site that has held "big box" stores for decades in SF. Why did SFBG not write editorials railing against Sears and Mervyns? Those stores were at Geary and Masonic--one-after-the-other--for several decades. Where is the study showing the benefit to middle-class and low-income families in having to pay more of their limited income for goods? Small businesses rarely can compete on price--rather, they compete on selection and/or quality of service, and many small businesses even thrive in competition with larger chain stores. However, for those to whom price really matters, they should have that option to shop at a discount store.

Moreover, a second-hand account that Sup. Mar supposedly has some magical preliminary study that may or may not indicate a net loss of 1,300 jobs from a new Target is about as useful to the issue of whether to allow a newTarget as is used toilet paper. If Sup. Mar has a legitimate study, then release it and prove that it can withstand rigorous academic peer-review. If not, then the "study" is just mere political posturing. And just perhaps, if there really are 1,300 that will be lost, then they need to be lost and replaced with new and better jobs (e.g. in "green tech," healthcare, etc.)--times change and the labor market has to adjust.

And what does Wal-Mart have to do with the price of eggs? There is no plan to build a Wal-Mart in San Francisco, it has a completely different business model than Target, and the only similarity between the two companies is that they can both loosely be categorized as chain discount operations.

Posted by Chris on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 8:29 am

on BART's anniversary - a system the Guardian was vehemently against when it was built. When has the Guardian ever been right on anything?

Posted by Troll II on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 9:18 am

Now if Supervisor Eric Mar loses his current job after November's election...I can live with that.

Posted by Guest Troll 3.1216 on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 9:07 am

In 2011, Eric Mar voted to approve the City Center special sign district legislation that facilitates Target’s relocation to Geary and Masonic. Why is he raising this issue now? Sometimes I think he’s just not that bright. His appearance on the Daily Show was an embarrassment. I’m not voting for him this time.

The facilities are already there, and they’ve been vacant ever since Mervyn’s closed. It was built to be a big department store (Sears), and if not Target or some similar big box retail, it’s just going to remain vacant. The future of retail is tenuous anyway, with everyone buying on line. But I do think people who need to buy a lot of stuff save it up for a trip to a big box store, be it in the SF or outside the city. SF gets the tax revenue if the store is in the city. And Target store that attracts outsiders to the neighborhood just may encourage small businesses to open in those vacant stores along Geary.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 7:29 pm