Mammoth retailer Wal-Mart has a sophisticated and well-staffed real estate division to handle its complex commercial needs. A large battery of attorneys, CCIMs, property managers, and real estate practitioners deal with the burgeoning demands of site selection, acquisition, sales, and leases. Is Wal-Mart ready to enter the consumer real estate market? Or will it wait to posture itself as a banker first?
In a response to the TheREALTYgram Blogger, Larry Patrick, Wal-Mart Economic Development Manager, said, "The only reason we are in the real estate business is to manage our own real estate holdings through the stores and distribution centers, we sell or re-tenant our vacant properties as soon as possible after we relocate, we have no commercial or residential real estate."
The following offering on Wal-Mart's web site appeal may to a broader range of commercial buyer concerns: "Wal-Mart's experienced team of real estate professionals will work with you to find and renovate a building just for your needs in a proven location. Whether you are interested in a no-frills environment, efficient office space, successful retail setting, flexible classroom space or other community needs, we can help turn your vision into a reality,"
The company has a highly sophisticated Internet property information platform. Check Wal-Mart properties for sale. It is using the services of two large commercial real estate brokerage companies, including a Coldwell Banker unit that was part of the Sears failed experiment with financial services in the 1980s and early 1990s. Interestingly, Jane Thompson, president of Wal-Mart's Financial Services, was once executive vice-president of Sears Roebuck's credit business.
It remains to be seen if Wal-Mart will become a major player in the real estate game. In the meantime, it sets its sights on banking business here and in Puerto Rico, and bloggers sound a cacophony of caution.
Retail giant Wal-Mart is sending shock waves through the financial world with recent forays into banking related services. Industry insiders report that the mighty vendor has commenced a series of acquisitions and partnerships that lay the groundwork for services ranging from checking and savings accounts, mortgages, car loans, and small business loans. "There's no question, they want to have a nationwide financial-services network. If they do, there's no doubt in my mind they'll be able to do to community banks the same thing they've done to the local grocery store and the local hardware store and the local clothing store," says Ronald K. Ence, vice-president of Independent Community Bankers of America.
Since banks have their eye on new income streams in the real estate market, we can only guess what Wal-Mart plans as its next logical step.