Local retailers have been quaking for years in anticipation, trying to figure out how to stand up against the giant Borg-like invasion.
Our local Loblaws chain, known as Zehrs, glitzed itself up. It seems at least a quarter of the goods have signs saying they're reduced in price. The Zehrs I shop at had been a stable place for decades, but in an apparent attempt to keep us in the store longer, has taken to reorganizing its stock every few months. Shopping has become a tiring sensory overload.
Loblaws has also opened a bunch of Walmart-clones called Great Canadian Superstores that specialize in household goods and junk food.
The bizarrest effect is on Canadian Tire stores, many of which are trying to keep their clientele by selling groceries. There's something just wrong about buying milk at a tire store.
As municipalities across North America have learned, this is all fruitless. Walmart has: (1) A huge advertising budget and a good PR firm; (2) Low prices; and (3) Scads of convenient parking. I know someone who lived right across the street from the Waterloo Zellers but drove all the way across Kitchener to the Sunrise Mall to buy things at Walmart that were available at Zellers. No, it didn't make any sense and it didn't save any money, but Walmart advertises more than Zellers and it sucks in the shoppers.
Waterloo city Council hopes that Walmart will not compete with the independent, boutique-style shops in Uptown. However, those aren't the only shops in Uptown. We also have a small grocery store and a hardware store, and they serve a very important purpose: they mean that the growing residential population in Uptown doesn't need to drive for necessities. If they die, then there will be no environmental benefits to a compact urban core. The core will just be a pretentious place to live, and not a true urban experience. Uptown residents will get in their SUVs and drive to the big box stores on the outskirts of town to shop. It's not anyone's vision for uptown Waterloo.