Obama support could propel Walmart growth forward

Washington, D.C. -- An endorsement by First Lady Michelle Obama of its new food nutrition and health initiative has helped to propel Wal-Mart Stores forward in its plans to remove political obstacles to further U.S. growth.

The new healthy food drive, in which Walmart is reformulating its Great Value private-label foods to reduce sodium and sugar contents, was announced on Thursday at a community center in a low-income area of Washington, D.C. It was attended by the First Lady, who also leads an administration initiative to fight childhood obesity.

The White House support could represent a significant boost for the retailer as it seeks to win local political support for new stores in Democrat-run cities including New York, Washington, Baltimore and Los Angeles, following a deal last summer to start opening stores in Chicago.

The retailer announced plans for the first four Walmart stores in Washington, D.C., in December, but is facing protests from union-backed groups who argue that Walmart’s non-union, low-cost model undercuts the benefits offered by unionized competitors.

In New York City, the retailer is reported to have lined up a site for its first store, rejoining a battle after at least two previous efforts to enter New York were blocked by city politicians.

Opponents of Walmart are expected to use a planned city council committee meeting next week to outline their case against the retailer.

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