Small business is at the heart of the economies of small towns all over the United States. Yet, big box stores like Wal-Mart and Target are growing increasingly popular in these same communities. This is because they are able to provide a wide variety of goods and services and the lowest prices possible. In weaker economies, these convenient and thrifty options can help stretch a family’s wallet and minimize the time it takes to run a household. However, these benefits come at a cost. Many have argues that Wal-Mart destroys any competition in a small town, ruining small businesses. There are also arguments regarding social and logistic concerns related to having a Wal-Mart in your town.
Most notable to the concerns surrounding Wal-Mart are the economic concerns. To the average citizen living relatively near the Wal-Mart, economic concerns should tip the scales in favor of Wal-Mart. The retailer maintains some of the most competitive prices on the market. Stores often sell a vast variety of good at bargain prices. Even if you do not actually shop at Wal-Mart, the mere presence of Wal-Mart lowers prices in a community.
According to Wal-Mart.com “the average American family saves $2,500 a year regardless of where they shop, since Walmart’s presence and leadership helps keep prices low.” (Walmart-Stores, Inc, 2012). It is easy to see how saving $2,500 a year can seem appealing. However, this same idea can cause local business to band against Wal-Mart. Most small businesses already price their goods as low as they can and still generate a profit. Being forced to price products lower can shut down many of these businesses. Additionally, these small stores cannot afford to stock the kind of inventory that Wal-Mart maintains. In many areas, Wal-Mart has devastated the small business driven down town.
Though Wal-Mart makes it difficult for small businesses to survive, they are a major employer. In fact, Wal-Mart is the biggest private employer in the United States. Providing these jobs can really help the residents of a small town and surrounding towns. Unfortunately, the benefits for working at Wal-Mart are not considered top-notch. According to Robert Reich (2012) “the average worker at America’s largest employer makes just $8.81 an hour”. Additionally, they pay on average 27% less on benefits then the average American corporation.
They also take a strong stand against the union. This is a major blow against unions and businesses that belong to unions. When such a major force comes into a community and takes a stand against unions, the unions may crumble all together. This position has caused a lot of picketing outside Wal-Mart stores.
Additional concerns around Wal-Mart stem from logistical details. Wal-Mart generates a lot of traffic. While large communities can handle this traffic, a small town might become congested. Many Wal-Marts have been crushed before they began over something as simple as a turn lane or stop light. They also attract an array of customers that otherwise would not stop in many of these small towns.
This can be good if these customers shop at other stores around town. However, if these customers are of the unscrupulous kind, Wal-Mart may be a detriment to small town safety. Construction of a store the size of Wal-Mart is often a major undertaking. It requires a serious commitment to even get the store off the ground. Finding the space can result in the displacement of unwilling parties. Some locations have been protested because of the location, whether historical land or the store simply created an eyesore. Of course, Wal-Mart supporters might say that many stores improve the use of land they were built on.
Ultimately, the value of Wal-Mart comes down to the community it is in. Many small towns have thrived after the arrival of Wal-Mart, and many have degraded. It is no question that Wal-Mart is one of the most popular and controversial stores in the United States. However, if it is right for your town must be a matter of great debate and consideration.
- Walmart-Stores Inc. (2012). Shoppers Spending $100 a Week Could Save An Average $700+ A Year on Similar Packaged Groceries at Walmart. Retrieved from http://news.walmart.com/news-archive/2008/09/12/shoppers-spending-100-a-week-could-save-an-average-700-a-year-on-similar-packaged-groceries-at-walmart.
- Reich, R. (2012). Why You Shouldn’t Shop at Wal-Mart on Friday. Retrieved from http://prospect.org/article/why-you-shouldnt-shop-wal-mart-friday.