Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wal-Mart Finally Coming

Wal-Mart could be open in Woolwich by the end of the year. This is a letter to the editor from 1998 that I wrote after a town meeting on Wal-Mart being built in Woolwich Township near the St. Jacobs Market.

I believe that a Wal-Mart in Woolwich township will smarten up other businesses in “Enterprising Elmira” to compete with Wal-Mart, Conestoga Mall and other businesses in the city of Waterloo. I believe in freedom of enterprise which is a democratic right.

I was at the meeting held on July 14, and there were some conflicting stories about other towns with a Wal-Mart. According to the Citizen’s Committee for Quality of Life in Woolwich, a Wal-Mart was responsible for a closure of a school in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. According to Milo Shantz’s son, Marcus, the school was closed because it was run by white supremacists.

It is no surprise to me when politicians, such as Bill Strauss, mislead the public, but it is when the Citizen’s Committee did. This group also says residents are not in support of the development. Eleven hundred people against Wal-Mart does not mean much in a population of 17,000. Maybe the other 15,000 plus do not care if Wal-Mart sets up shop in Woolwich or elsewhere.

I know Wal-Mart has had problems with sweat shops, but they are working with child labour organizations against this. Should we stop buying from a local company that had production problems? People got food poisoning from a Schneider’s LunchMate product, but the company has made sure that does not happen again.

Traffic should not be a problem since Highway was expanded to four lanes and on-ramps were added onto Regional Road 15.

Elmira businesses have been trounced by competition from Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge and Guelph that open at better hours.

A good example of this is that the Shopper’s Drug Mart in town is closed on Sundays. So, instead of shopping in Woolwich, I can go to Conestoga Mall in Waterloo and while I am there I can go to Zeller’s, buy groceries at Zehr’s and get the latest C.D. Soon, I will be able to see a movie.

This town lost Zehr’s, Canadian Tire and Brox’s. The town must decide if wants commercial for retail or tourism. Uptown Waterloo and downtown Kitchener have vacant buildings, but they are not crying foul from big box stores.

Big box stores are not a new thing. Fifteen years ago, the Zehr’s on Weber Street near Highway 8 was Hiway Market. It was a grocery store and a department store in one. I do not think Wal-Mart will close in a few years because it is in location where the land in being developed.

From what I have heard, a few businesses, that have been fighting the development on the edge of Waterloo, have deteriorated. They are wasting money making signs and T-shirts that could improve the downtown core. The Elmira B.I.A. tried to bribe a business for $5,000 to support their cause.

Downtown Elmira has failed to provide for the young people of the area that is major consumer population. They are the future and prefer to shop where there is everything they need and want.

We really need more proper information on the impact of a big store and plan that will satisfy everyone. Mennonites will continue shop in Woolwich if the township provides it. And downtown Elmira must have a plan in place to compete and provide the town with good service, fair prices and consistency of hours. The world does work seven days a week.


Interrobang said...

What are your feelings on Wal-Mart's consistent anti-union policies in light of Canada's labour laws which guarantee the rights of workers to organise? How about the flagrant violations of US labour laws in which it has engaged, such as forcing workers to clock off before working overtime, so as not to incur time-and-a-half salary expenses?

Similarly, how do you feel about Wal-Mart's being the defendant in the world's largest sex-discrimination class-action lawsuit, for persistently allowing the harassment of, underpaying, and underpromoting the women in its work force? How do you feel about its policies (stated or not) in light of Canada's commitment to equality in the workplace?

Also, what are your views on Wal-Mart's position as a virtual monopsony, since because of its size it is able to bully its suppliers into accepting whatever conditions it sets, including degrading the quality of the merchandise the supplier provides to all other buyers? The cases of Rubbermaid and Strub's are instructive here. (Or have you never noticed or wondered why Rubbermaid totes are so much less robust than they used to be?) Its monopsonistic tendencies also allow it to undercut other retailers, by trading on its leverage with suppliers to drive the suppliers' prices down. (This, in turn, hurts the suppliers' businesses to Wal-Mart's benefit. General Electric, for example, extends this principle by undercutting its suppliers to the point of bankruptcy and then performs hostile takeovers on them.)

As someone who ostensibly cares about competition in the marketplace, you should be very cautious about promoting Wal-Mart as an exemplar of same, since Wal-Mart's business practices are generally fundamentally anticompetitive. Other "big box" stores (such as Zehrs or Canadian Tire) simply cannot touch it in terms of its market influence, which, from an antitrust perspective, is excessive.

Anonymous said...

I think Walmart is about the most scummy discusting low life retailer on the face of the planet. I wouldn't buy anything from such a pathetic excuse for a company.