November 16, 2004

The Classic Story

Everywhere WM opens up a new store, the same pattern of activity can be seen. Since I'm an economist, not an anthropologist or sociologist, I've not formed a concise story to explain it. But now I don't have to, as this new store story in the Times-Herald has it all, starting with the title--Wal-Mart draws criticism, praise. Continue below to read an excerpt:

By ERIN KOSNAC

FORT GRATIOT -- Michael Ward thinks it's great news Wal-Mart wants to open a supercenter north of Meijer on M-25.

But the Fort Gratiot resident knows not everyone shares his opinion.

"Wal-Mart's a big company," said Ward, who owns North Port Party Store, which is across the road from the proposed site. "And anytime you have something that big, you're always going to have groups who dislike you."

As plans have been announced to bring or expand Wal-Marts in Fort Gratiot, Marine City and Sandusky, supporters and opponents of the retail giant have emerged.

Eugene Fram is familiar with both sides.

Fram is the J. Warren McClure Research professor of marketing at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and has been studying Wal-Mart for more than 20 years.

Fram said Wal-Mart critics have varying reasons for their opposition, including concerns about low wages, environmental issues and changes in the nature of a community because of the increased retail -- and other businesses -- the store could bring.

Fram also has seen communities try to attract Wal-Mart because all the independent stores have left the area.

"Not everyone likes Wal-Mart," Fram said. "Some people will say they're not going to shop there, and they don't shop there. But a lot of people are shopping there because their prices are so low..."

Dick Reynolds, a member of Fort Gratiot's planning commission, voted against granting Wal-Mart special land-use approval for a gas station and tire-and-lube express at its proposed supercenter.

"I don't shop at Wal-Mart," Reynolds said at Tuesday's planning commission meeting. "I don't like their practices."

Rosalie Skwiers of Marine City also doesn't like Wal-Mart's practices...

She said she reads two to five stories each week in newspapers about Wal-Mart, and almost none of them are positive. She has concerns about labor abuses, the impact on independent businesses in the surrounding areas and the number of Wal-Mart employees on public assistance....

"At some point, someone is going to come along and out Wal-Mart Wal-Mart," he said. "But they've got at least another 20 to 30 years, at least that's what my crystal ball says."

Posted by Kevin on November, 16 2004 at 09:51 AM