Local Businesses vs. Big Businesses

It’s a common occurrence happening in many small towns all over America throughout the recent years. Big national and international businesses such as Target and Wal-Mart move into suburbs and smaller towns and steal away consumers from Mom-and-Pop stores. These smaller stores and Mom and Pop generally employ fewer than 100 employees compared to bigger businesses that employ anywhere over 500 employees. Wal-Mart currently has 2.1 million associates overall throughout the world, with 1.4 just in America. It is one of the top employers of the United States, Mexico, and Canada. (http://walmartstores.com/pressroom/FactSheets/?sourceid=diversityfacts&ref=http%3a%2f%2fwww.google.com%2fsearch%3fsourceid%3dnavclient%26aq%3d0h%26oq%3dhow%2b%26ie%3dUTF-8%26rlz%3d1T4ADFA_enUS343US344%26q%3dhow%2bmany%2bemployees%2bdoes%2bwalmart%2bhave#EmploymentandDiversity)  Of course, it would seem to many Americans that such businesses are a benefit to towns because of the amount of people they can employ. However, there are many more disadvantages when you lose local businesses that have been around for many years.

In many small cities all over America, family and small businesses ruled the downtowns in first half of the 20th century. However with the introductions of supermarkets, malls, and big box stores, these businesses fell to the wayside. Big box stores are larger chain stores that establish physically large branches. The most popular examples are Wal-Mart and Target. With the loss of local stores, the town also loses the feelings of community and interaction with your neighbors. In big stores such as Walmart and supermarkets people behave very differently than they do in family and local businesses that have the “environment that slows the pace of life and encourages people to loiter and converse.” Whereas in big stores, there is less room for this type of interaction. People are more likely to just do their shopping and leave than stay for awhile and chat with their neighbors. Studies have shown that an environment with small local businesses lead to a livelier and more active community than one in a city monopolized by big businesses.  These citizens are more likely to join civic and social groups and even more likely to vote. (http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/local-economies-close-the-distance-between-us)

Another disadvantage of a big business monopolized town is how these businesses treat their workers, both the workers in the individual stores and the workers who produce their products.  The reason that many Americans prefer to shop at stores such as Walmart is because of how cheap they can buy all of products. However these stores are only able to provide their goods as cheap as they are by using unethical methods. According to Wake-Up Wal-Mart: The Real Wal-Mart Facts, most of this mistreatment is felt by the Chinese.  70% of the products on Wal-Mart’s shelves come from China. One such example is a factory in Guangzhou, China that made Christmas ornaments for Walmart. Reports stated that these workers were paid way below minimum wage and would work beyond legal limits such as 95 hour weeks and months without a day off. In addition, there were often dangerous situations at this factory such as children as young as 12 employed there and workers handling hazardous chemicals without protection therefore causing serious health risks. (http://wakeupwalmart.com/facts/)

As for the associates in America, they are not safe from Wal-Mart’s mistreatment. The average Wal-Mart worker earns an annual income of $19,165 which is below the federal poverty line. It is nearly impossible for a Wal-Mart worker to support a family. For example, the national family budget for a family of four in 2005 was $39,984, more than double the yearly income of the Wal-Mart worker. The most surprising aspect is that Wal-Mart could afford to raise this yearly income up an additional $1,800 raise for each employee by raising prices of their products only one half of one penny per dollar. (http://wakeupwalmart.com/facts/)

Now compare all of this mistreatment to the local small businesses, which only employ few workers and therefore can afford to give higher wages. In addition, because there are so few employees, employers have a relationship with their workers and therefore provide a safe and ethical workplace for them. Reasons such as these are why America should return to the days of local family businesses and reject the businesses practices of businesses such as Wal-Mart.

Kati Oberle

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2 Responses to “Local Businesses vs. Big Businesses”

  1. spencerprete Says:

    My article is about Wal-Mart’s effect on small businesses all over the country. I agree with a lot of your points presented in your paper, but there are a few statements that I would like to elaborate on. First, I completely agree that Wal-Mart steals jobs from local businesses especially from Mom and Pop stores that do not have the capital to compete with such a large and powerful corporation. I live in a small town, and when a Wal-Mart moved into our town within a year the Kmart that was across the street was closed and most of the stores in the plaza nearby also went out of business. The only stores that are open around the Wal-Mart are food establishments because the Wal-Mart does not directly compete with these as much as grocery and retail stores. Even stores in the towns surrounding the Wal-Mart have lost business because of Wal-Mart’s low prices.
    According to wakeupwalmart.com, Wal-Mart does not lead to an increase in jobs, but retail employment actually went down by 2.7 percent, and to put this into perspective that means that for every one Wal-Mart worker hired 1.4 retail jobs were lost. They continue by saying that when a Wal-Mart enters a city it eliminates similar jobs that would pay on average twenty percent more, which in turn decreases the average earning for everyone. This quote I think truly represents what Wal-Mart stands for: “In 2005, Wal-Mart real-estate manager Jeff Doss spoke about an oft-cited remark by company founder Sam Walton that Wal-Mart would not build stores in towns if the residents did not want them. ‘Were that the case,’ he said, ‘we’d never build a store anywhere.’” The founder of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton, has no compassion for the communities he builds in because he built his franchise on making money and nothing else.
    I also agree with your point that these larger businesses lose the friendly atmosphere that is associated with local stores. The workers are paid for being productive not for being friendly, and Wal-Mart constantly hires new employers. The jobs at smaller businesses are more secure, and even offer better healthcare. The overall working experience at Wal-Mart is worse than local businesses that care about their employers.
    The low prices that Wal-Mart can profit from are due to the fact that they pay their worker minimum wage, they get their products from third world countries that have no restriction on working conditions, and they have tremendous purchasing power. We have to realize that nothing in the world today is free and someone has to pay for our “bargains” and in this case it is the workers who are working in sweatshops in China or other countries. This is one of many ways in which Wal-Mart is not ethical compared to the local stores they are closing, so the main point of this article is to avoid shopping at Wal-Mart. My other article about ethical businesses explains how an ethical business operates. Wal-Mart is the epitome of an unethical business, which benefits few at the expense of many. Think about it, are a few dollars worth making others suffer? Shop at a local store that cares about their customers.

  2. Shop our retail stores during Small Business Saturday on Nantucket | Nantucket Brand Blog Says:

    […] There are many other stores participating in Small Business Saturday on Nantucket, and across the country. We may be biased, but we're always in favor of shopping at small businesses over big-box retailers. You'll typically find more unique items, get a personalized experience, and you'll more than likely be supporting more ethically responsible businesses. […]


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