12/10/2001

 

Big Chains Swallow Local Stores

 

Itís shopping season and it amazes me all the support the national chain stores get from local government and shoppers. A big chain comes into the area and local government gives them big tax breaks and other support, and as soon as they open, the shoppers flock in. What is the effect on the local economy? The store is owned by a corporation outside the area, so other than wages to workers and managers all the profit goes out of the area, back to wherever corporate headquarters and the principle owners are. Locally owned stores loose business. Money that would have been made by local store owners and kept in this area, to build bigger homes, buy more goods, give to local charities, buy into local investments, or enlarge the store and give more selection and lower prices, instead goes somewhere else. And our local governments in effect pay them to do this.

 

One big-box store deserves some special attention though. They like to portray themselves as the working manís friend; ads that feature average working folk, banners touting their preference for U. S. made goods, etc. But theyíve had a number of labor disputes reported in the press. One was well over a year ago when they had row with a meat cuttersí union. Seems that some stores had meat departments. The people who worked in these departments voted to join a union. The reaction of corporate headquarters was to close all the meat departments and just sell packaged meats they could buy ready to sell. Some friend of the working man.

 

Iíd always had these misgivings about non-local stores anyway, and that pushed me over the line. Was it possible to live without the big-box store? Well over a year later I can tell you it is. Iíve been back a couple of times for little things my kids needed in a pinch we couldnít find otherwise, but rarely is there something I canít find in locally owned stores, or that they canít order for me, or if Iím going to give money to a national chain anyway I might as well give it to some mail-order outfit.

 

The same is true for one of the big chain grocery stores in the area. (Did I mention I live near Chino?) When they moved to the new location they opened gas pumps as well. They very deliberately undersold the local stations. For a little while there was a price war on, and the chain store would stay a penny under everyone else. (If you use their store card. Not only do they want your money, they want a detailed record of whoís buying what.) It wasnít just an opening promotion; they still stay a penny under the others. I was disappointed to see how much business they got.

 

I guess people donít think about these things, that when they shift their business from locally owned stations that those stations may disappear and some locals lose their livelihood. They also donít think that as soon as the inexpensive stations go under, the chain store will raise its price. Or maybe for some saving a penny is more important. For me, that chain hasnít seen me more than a few times to pick up something in a pinch since they moved.

 

When youíre shopping this season, before you run to the national chains, give the locals a try.