October 12, 2005

Belvidere, IL

Despite the worst fears of some, Wal-Mart's impact on Belvidere's retail community appears to have been most helpful.
Say that again? The Rockford Register Star notes this is an odd case. Successful new car dealerships, and a brand new shopping center cater to an increasing population. These folks don't shop downtown, though it's extremely unlikely that "Most of the people that have moved here don't even know there is a downtown." The article focuses on the Ace Hardware store that lost business, but didn't go under, because it refined its product mix. In other words, it chose to compete wisely:
"There is no way I can compete with Wal-Mart on some things," Rickabaugh said. "But we have expanded some things to make up for those areas we were having trouble in.

"We've kept the specialty stuff, boosted our circulars, and customers know service is our business. When Amtrak and other things take off downtown and the economy comes back completely, I think you'll see us take off. I just have to buy a little time to get there."

What about the downtown?
Downtown Belvidere is another animal. Turnover of small mom-and-pop stores is somewhat common, but thus far it appears that downtown has sustained minimal impact as a result of Wal-Mart.
That includes the small grocer...

Posted by Kevin at 10:37 AM

October 8, 2005

Flin Flon

We add a new category today -- 'Destroyed" Communities. In this series, we will examine in-depth all the examples of small towns allegedy destroyed by Wal-Mart.

Today's example is Flin Flon, Manitoba Canada. The local UFCW832 has a nice piece about how the unionized competitors handled their employees when Wal-Mart moved in -- by demanding concessions in wages, and firing people outright. The downtown was hit, but was it destroyed? No, but it was no longer "bustling":

The day that Wal-Mart opened was also the day that Flin Flon changed the laws for Sunday shopping. Prior to Wal-Mart, a store could only open if it had fewer than four employees working. Once Wal-Mart arrived the beginning of the social decline started.

Now in 2005, the once booming downtown is a shell of its former self. Merchants still occupy the downtown, but the bustle is gone. The Flin Flon Hotel has been closed down for a while and is still boarded up. The mine has gone through hard times but still employs almost 10 percent of the population. Young people who once had a choice of good paying union jobs now look outside of the community to earn a living wage.

So we have a complicated story, with Wal-Mart not being the only source of major change...

Posted by Kevin at 2:49 PM