Written by: Figgy_6
I live in Mentor, Ohio, a suburb about thirty-five miles east of Cleveland. It used to be all greenhouses, until a few decades ago when it began the process of commercialization, along with other neighboring cities. Big-name stores moved into town, slowly at first. After awhile, along came a shopping mall and stores such as K-Mart. These businesses really began to change the community for the better. As the area became more developed, more people moved there. Eventually Wal-Mart made its way into town. The onset of competition forced K-mart to relocate (less than a mile down the road from the original site, across the street from where the Wal-Mart was being built) and upgrade to a Super K-Mart Center. The difference between K-Mart and Super K-Mart is that Super K-Mart has everything that regular K-Mart has, but it is now also equipped with a complete grocery section. This enables customers to do all of their shopping in one location.
It all started in 1962. The first Wal-Mart Discount City opened that year in Rogers, Arkansas, and the franchise has been growing exponentially ever since. In 1980 there were 276 stores, and in the year 2000, there are more than 3,400 Wal-Marts in every state of the USA and a handful of foreign countries. These countries include Germany, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, and Korea, to name a few. Wal-Mart has aspirations to be globally recognized like McDonald's and Coca-Cola.
For five years, the state of Vermont waged a war against Wal-Mart, refusing to let any of these super stores inside state boundaries. Eventually Wal-Mart won the battle and the first store opened in Bennington, Vermont. Instead of expected protests, Wal-Mart's business was booming. During the first week, the store had almost 1.5 times as many transactions as people live in the town. According to "Shopping With the Enemy", town life will never be the same because "people crave the low prices, large selection and convenient parking," offered by discount stores (146).
In the article "Wal-Mart's War on Main Street," by Sarah Anderson, it is correctly stated that "rural life is changing and there's no use denying it." (Anderson 139) Even without imposing businesses, the technological advances of today make the world smaller and smaller. It used to be that in rural places there would be one farm and then nothing for miles. There wasn't much contact with people outside of one's family. Today anyone on a farm can have all the necessities and luxuries of life, and with the use of the Internet can easily contact anyone anywhere in the world. These simple facts alone provide evidence that rural life is changing.
The major argument made by Albert Norman and other anti-Wal-Mart activists is that Wal-Mart and other discount stores drive the "Ma & Pa" stores out of business. This statement has some validity in that discount stores charge less and have a significantly larger quantity available, thus making them the top choice. They can charge less because they buy their products in bulk (3,400 stores is definitely bulk). Also, unlike some neighborhood stores, they have an efficient system to keep track of their inventory. This enables them to know what consumers are buying and what they are not buying. Rarely are shelves empty of desirable items. The store can tell when a product is running low and order more before they run out. "Ma & Pa" stores usually do not know what products are popular and overstock on unpopular items and under stock on the popular ones, possibly leaving the shelves bare for any length of time. Oftentimes they wait until they are completely out of an item before reordering. The delivery process takes up to two weeks. Meanwhile, what are customers to do if they are in dire need of a product? They have no choice but to suffer the consequences of being without it.
Privately owned businesses must adapt to the changing times. They will not automatically go out of business just because Wal-Mart is moving in. It is true that large stores like Wal-Mart give discount prices, but do they always give the best quality and service? A lot of big businesses are too impersonal, not giving customers the same quality treatment they would receive on Main Street. However, Wal-Mart is an exception in this area; Wal-Mart has a reputation for excellent customer service. They have a greeter, who welcomes you upon entering the store, and there are plenty of workers roaming around to help you out as desired.
The Internet is also to blame for putting Main Streets out of business. If people do not live near a discount store they can still purchase their products by means of shopping on-line. On-line purchases are much easier to make than to drive out to the discount store, and delivery only takes a few days at most (and the best prices are available on-line). Wal-Mart has its own site, complete with a greeter and its best sales posted on the front page. Most stores on-line advertise their low prices, much like Wal-Mart does on their online site.
Even so, for those consumers without Internet access, discount stores are only a short trip away. A lot of people will drive a great distance just for items that are on sale. Residents of small towns that don't have any big discount stores, still like to shop at discount stores, so they usually go shopping at the discount stores in neighboring towns.
Until now, I had no idea that Wal-Mart was thought of as villainous. My neighborhood did not change because of the new Wal-Mart as much as it did from the rest of the new stores sprouting up in the area. Communities are learning to adapt to these new conditions. Rural life is changing, and people have to deal with it. Not all of Main Street's stores will stay in business and those who have to quit may be able to find better jobs once their community is developed. In conclusion, Wal-Mart is not a villain and does not move into small towns with the sole intent of "killing" "Ma & Pa" stores!