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Big Box Bust: The Wal Mart Effect On Small Communities

1533 words - 6 pages

Everyone loves to save money. In the tough economic times of today, every dollar counts. For some families, saving twenty dollars a week can mean the difference between having food on the table or not. Whether out of necessity or just the thrill of getting a good deal, American families have been relying on “big box” retailers for inexpensive products for decades. There really is nothing quite like going into one store and being able to buy clothes, groceries, auto supplies, pet supplies and items for the home. An entire day’s worth of shopping can be done in one place at a fraction of the time, at very competitive prices. These same stores also hire hundreds of employees from the community and are thought to benefit the city and county greatly with their tax dollars.
It seems as though these retailers should be welcome with open arms when they look into building one of their mega-stores in America’s mid-sized communities. Closer inspection, however, should make citizens think twice before opening their communities to these corporations. Job loss, negative impact on the local economy and the low wages these stores pay are just a few reasons why big box retailers do more harm than good to the communities in which they locate.
A big box retailer is defined as a retail store that occupies an enormous amount of physical space and offers a variety of products to its customers. The term "big-box" is derived from the store's physical appearance. Located in large-scale buildings of more than 50,000 square feet, the store is usually plainly designed and often resembles a large box (Investopedia). Some of these stores, such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Target, provide consumers with a wide variety of goods. Others, deemed “category killers,” specialize in one category of goods, such as toys, electronics, or building supplies. These types of stores have been looked upon negatively for years. Since the 1920’s, large retail chains have been accused of “paying low wages, not contributing to their communities, taking money out of communities, paying fewer taxes than local merchants, and turning America into ‘a nation of clerks’ ” (Ross 247).
Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer. According to their website, Wal-Mart employs more than 2.1 million associates worldwide, including more than 1.4 million in the United States. Wal-Mart is not only one of the largest private employers in the U.S., but the largest in Mexico and one of the largest in Canada as well (walmartfacts 1). Wal-Mart made $405 billion in sales for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2010. In the U.S., Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. operates more than 4,300 facilities including Wal-Mart supercenters, discount stores, Neighborhood Markets and Sam’s Club warehouses (2). They also go on to tout the generous wages and benefits their associates receive, as well as their generosity to the local communities in which their stores are located.
One of the biggest reasons most communities...

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