Saturday, November 15, 2008

Don't Forget the Little Guy

Yesterday (11/14/08) the Wall Street Journal published a front-page article headlined "Wal-Mart Defies Retail Slowdown."

Here is an excerpt:

"On Thursday, after a week of bad news from retailers such as Best Buy Co. and Starbucks Corp., Wal-Mart said earnings for the third quarter rose 9.8% while sales rose 7.5%. At stores open at least a year, sales rose 3%, twice as much as a year before, and far better than nearly every other U.S. retailer.
Behind the figures is a confluence of trends fueled by the downturn. As strapped consumers look for cheaper goods, and weaker retailers go out of business, Wal-Mart is using its unmatched economies of scale to drive down prices, undercut competitors and squeeze costs out of suppliers ever more dependent on the Bentonville, Ark., behemoth.
Indeed, the downturn is increasing Wal-Marts clout just as its dominance was being threatened by diminishing returns on its big-box expansion formula, more-selective consumers and a growing field of rivals. The company's size is now turning to its advantage: for every $1 spent in the last year on goods other than cars in the U.S., 8.2 cents went to a cashier at a Wal-Mart store or a Sam's Club, the company's membership warehouse chain, according to Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers."

This is not a post to complain about Wal-Mart, but rather one to encourage you reading this to try your best to continue supporting local businesses as we all try to navigate the uncertain economic future.

As consumers we have a tremendous amount of choice when deciding where to shop. How we make that decision as a society has a big impact on how our lives and cities look. I hope we all decide to enrich our lives and cities by directing our spending to local enterprise at a level sufficient to sustain local businesses through the current economic slump. Although there is a moderate 'premium' to buying local, I'm certain that, in the long run, the cost to our community of sustaining and maintaining a given local business is much, much lower than allowing it to fail and eventually start over.

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