Thursday, May 26, 2005

Wal-Mart Came, Wal-Mart Conquered, Wal-Mart Left

If you were still in need of convincing, there is a story out of McGhee, Arkansas about a town that is begging and pleading to – keeps its Wal-Mart. During its thirty years in the town, the Wal-Mart has just about wiped out the small downtown businesses so all that is currently left is 100,000 sq. ft. box store. However, McGhee’s store was built in the 1970s and is small by today’s standards meaning that the chain is looking to close it and build a supercenter 30 miles away.

A small, fading community in Southeast Arkansas learns its small, outdated Wal-Mart will shut down if the company decides to build a Supercenter in a rival town 20 miles up the highway. Everyone from the mayor to students at the high school starts throwing everything they can at the corporate Wal-Mart wall — Census figures and crime statistics, barrages of phone calls and e-mails, the implied threat of a whole bunch of bad PR — hoping enough will stick to convince Wal-Mart to stay.

The irony is not lost on Mayor Bain Poole.

“As we all know, that’s sort of unusual,” he said. “… But when you reach the point where Wal-Mart’s all you got left — we’re trying to keep it.”
This is a trend that we’ve seen all over the country. It points out once again that Wal-Mart’s concerns are all about its profitability and has no allegiance to any town (or, given its China policy, any country). While this certainly their right, it is also a community’s prerogative to worry about whether Wal-Mart, after putting out local business, will even stay to service that community. Neighborhood residents not only rightfully fret about the transiency that Wal-Mart creates but also the fact that Wal-Mart itself is a truly transient entity.

The experience of McGhee also points out the fraudulent nature of the chain’s Sam’s Club ads that try to portray the club store as the best friend of small business.