The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has announced that it has entered into an alliance with retailing giant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. in an effort to expand the retailer’s presence with the GLBT community. The alliance demonstrates that Wal-Mart “is making a very sincere effort to reach out to people who are a significant part of our customer base,” says Wal-Mart spokesman Bob McAdam. This partnership is in line with Wal-Mart’s strategy to expand into 50 urban areas across the country, many in neighborhoods in need of revitalization.
The alliance is not expected to bring a visible influx of gay-oriented merchandise to Wal-Mart. The specific purpose of the partnership is to help Wal-Mart attract and hire a diverse array of suppliers, including gays and lesbians. Though it obtains much of its merchandise from overseas suppliers, Wal-Mart also uses many local firms to provide services, such as landscaping, architectural design, painting, and more.
Naturally, this move is not without controversy as both conservative and gay activist groups have criticized the alliance. On the right, both the Family Research Council and the Culture and Family Institute at Concerned Women for America have spoken out against the partnership between Wal-Mart and NGLCC. “I don’t think this is something that will sell on Main Street America, where most Wal-Mart stores are located. I don’t think cheap prices on goods from China will be enough to stop a rollback in their customer base if they choose to go down this aisle,” says Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
On the left, Pride at Work, a constituency within the AFL-CIO labor confederation, has criticized NGLCC’s partnership with Wal-Mart because the retailer does not offer domestic partner benefits to its gay employees. However the retailer does have an anti-discrimination policy covering sexual orientation and is in discussions with groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to explore the possibility of extending benefits to same sex partners.