Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Death of the Big Box Stores? About Time But Too Late

As many of you know, I grew up outside a small town in rural Oklahoma. In the early 1950s it had a thriving main street with a number of local businesses providing goods and services. We left there in 1955, though, and I hadn't really kept up with things.

Until I happened, by sheer coincidental chance several years ago, to run into someone from my old home town. She had been a couple of years ahead of me in grade school, so I didn't remember her specifically, although I do remember the family.

Naturally we had to get caught up on the town, and she said that I wouldn't recognize it now. All of the downtown businesses are closed, the windows boarded over, and you could kick a rock down the length of main street without hitting a car.

"But," she added, "thank god there's a new Walmart just outside of town."

I thought she was being ironic. She wasn't. She truly did not get the connection.

Over at Alternet take a look at After Ruining America, the Era of Giant Chain Stores Is Over for an analysis of the impending implosion of the box store chains.

Sadly, like my homegirl, there are many people who just don't get it.


double nickel said...

I get it. WalMart has ruined the Main Street in my hometown as well.

Marc McDonald said...

Wal-Mart's role in the destruction of Main Street America has truly been sad.
Here in Texas, there are countless small towns with lovely old downtown areas, typically with storefronts and a courthouse dating from the late 1800s. Many of these downtown areas are now empty and everyone goes to the local Wal-Mart to shop.
Before the Wal-Mart era, these small towns each had their own character. Each downtown area was unique. I recall going to one small town back in the 1970s and eating at a home-style small family cafe and then later walking around and checking out the bustling small shops. That small town's downtown was unique---as was the downtowns of thousands of other cities. These days, it's a barren wasteland, with all the shops now boarded up. It's sad.
Some people might say, "Well, that's just the free market in action."
But Wal-Mart's business model really has nothing to do with the "free market." It has more to do with corporate welfare, as well as Chinese socialist state-owned corporations that flagrantly violate WTO rules.

Nan said...

Well, it wasn't totally Walmart and other big boxes. A lot of the blame lies with state and federal highway departments that in the name of efficiency and speed re-routed highways to avoid downtowns. When you build a bypass, businesses move to be next to the exit ramps or on the frontage road. I live in a small town in a rural county that has too low a population density to support a Walmart -- if people want to shop at the Evil Empire/House of Satan they have to drive 40 miles -- but Main Street is dead here, too. The businesses have all relocated so they can sit right next to the highway.