Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Walmart Effect

After a twelve year battle to keep it out, Walmart recently opened its doors in my community, or at least nearby in Woolwich Township.

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.



Anonymous said...

Waterloo treated Walmart in the same anti-democratic way so many other municipalities do. Woolwich has every right to have a Walmart if they want to. Waterloo did put up every road block they could until Walmart finally gave in and paid them off with millions of dollars. That type of action shouldn't even be legal. Its a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Why do you say that? Do you have some reasons? I mean, on the face of it Waterloo was functioning democratically when it acted, and didn't violate Walmart's legal rights. Why would you like to see the law changed so that what Waterloo did would be made illegal? Yappa gave some reasons for her concern. If you have nothing to say to rebut those, your response is an elaborate way of saying, 'I disagree'. But without reasons you can't expect others to agree with you. For a democracy to function well, the electorate need to keep informed and offer compelling reasons for their opinions regarding public policy.

Bert said...

From Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, said:
I did not accuse KAIROS of being anti-Semitic. What I said was that KAIROS has taken ‘a leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (against Israel).‘ In fact, Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno’s own research led her to the same conclusion. She wrote that KAIROS has taken ‘a leading role in divestment, sanctions and targeted boycotts of Israel,’ and said those who deny that are ‘disingenuous and dissembling.‘

‘While I disagree with the nature of KAIROS’s militant stance toward the Jewish homeland, that is not the reason their request for taxpayer funding was denied. International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda – not me – is responsible for the Canada International Development Agency. And she has been clear that a cost-sharing program with KAIROS was not approved because it did not meet CIDA’s current priorities, such as increased food aid.’”