Monday, February 25, 2013

Wal-Mart passes city council, 5 - 4

This evening Springfield City Council, on a 5 - 4 vote, approved the re-zoning of the church property at 444 West Grand, between Campbell and Grant, to permit the construction of a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market.

Councilman Rush, Mayor Stephens, Councilwoman Fisk, Councilman Compton and the little guy who works for the Chamber of Commerce in his day job Siegfried, all voted in Wal-Mart's favor.

When I got home this evening from the City Council meeting, this was in my email box:

 "After Ruining America, the Era of Giant Chain Stores Is Over" by James Howard Kunsler.

The coming implosion of big box retail implies tremendous opportunities for young people to make a livelihood in the imperative rebuilding of local economies. February 24, 2013

Global currency wars (competitive devaluations) are about to destroy trade relationships. Say goodbye to the 12,000 mile supply chain from Guangzhou to Hackensack. Say goodbye to the growth financing model in which it becomes necessary to open dozens of new stores every year to keep the credit revolving. Then there is the matter of the American customers themselves. The WalMart shoppers are exactly the demographic that is getting squashed in the contraction of this phony-baloney corporate buccaneer parasite revolving credit crony capital economy.

Unlike the Federal Reserve, WalMart shoppers can't print their own money, and they can't bundle their MasterCard and Visa debts into CDOs to be fobbed off on Scandinavian pension funds for quick profits.

They have only one real choice: buy less stuff, especially the stuff of leisure, comfort, and convenience. The potential for all sorts of economic hardship is obvious in this burgeoning dynamic. But the coming implosion of big box retail implies tremendous opportunities for young people to make a livelihood in the imperative rebuilding of local economies.

 Back in the day when big box retail started to explode upon the American landscape like a raging economic scrofula, I attended many a town planning board meeting where the pro and con factions faced off over the permitting hurdle. The meetings were often raucous and wrathful and almost all the time the pro forces won — for the excellent reason that they were funded and organized by the chain stores themselves (in an early demonstration of the new axioms that money-is-speech and corporations are people, too!).

The chain stores won not only because they flung money around — sometimes directly into the wallets of public officials — but because a sizeable chunk of every local population longed for the dazzling new mode of commerce. "We Want Bargain Shopping" was their rallying cry.

The unintended consequence of their victories through the 1970s and beyond was the total destruction of local economic networks, that is, Main Streets and downtowns, in effect destroying many of their own livelihoods. Wasn't that a bargain, though? Despite the obvious damage now visible in the entropic desolation of every American home town,

WalMart managed to install itself in the pantheon of American Dream icons, along with apple pie, motherhood, and Coca Cola. In most of the country there is no other place to buy goods (and no other place to get a paycheck, scant and demeaning as it may be). America made itself hostage to bargain shopping and then committed suicide.

Here we find another axiom of human affairs at work: People get what they deserve, not what they expect. Life is tragic. The older generations responsible for all that may be done for, but the momentum has now turned in the opposite direction. Though the public hasn't groked it yet,

WalMart and its kindred malignant organisms have entered their own yeast-overgrowth death spiral. In a now permanently contracting economy the big box model fails spectacularly. Every element of economic reality is now poised to squash them.

Diesel fuel prices are heading well north of $4 again. If they push toward $5 this year you can say goodbye to the "warehouse on wheels" distribution method. (The truckers, who are mostly independent contractors, can say hello to the re-po men come to take possession of their mortgaged rigs.)

At this stage it is probably discouraging for them, because all their life programming has conditioned them to be hostages of giant corporations and so to feel helpless. In a town like the old factory village I live in (population 2500) few of the few remaining young adults might venture to open a retail operation in one of the dozen-odd vacant storefronts on Main Street.

 The presence of K-Mart, Tractor Supply, and Radio Shack a quarter mile west in the strip mall would seem to mock their dim inklings that something is in the wind. But K-Mart will close over 200 boxes this year, and Radio Shack is committed to shutter around 500 stores. They could be gone in this town well before Santa Claus starts checking his lists. If they go down, opportunities will blossom. There will be no new chain store brands to replace the dying ones. That phase of our history is over. What we're on the brink of is scale implosion. Everything gigantic in American life is about to get smaller or die.

 Everything that we do to support economic activities at gigantic scale is going to hamper our journey into the new reality. The campaign to sustain the unsustainable, which is the official policy of US leadership, will only produce deeper whirls of entropy. I hope young people recognize this and can marshal their enthusiasm to get to work. It's already happening in the local farming scene; now it needs to happen in a commercial economy that will support local agriculture. The additional tragedy of the big box saga is that it scuttled social roles and social relations in every American community.

On top of the insult of destroying the geographic places we call home, the chain stores also destroyed people's place in the order of daily life, including the duties, responsibilities, obligations, and ceremonies that prompt citizens to care for each other.

We can get that all back, but it won't be a bargain. © 2013 James Howard Kunstler


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately for the
Bistro Market, retail prices are going down.

Taylor, the owner, researched this type of market and determined that to carve out some marketshare, he would need to offer brands not normally found in the market and attempt to build brand loyalty. Tough to do. The end result has been brands with higher margins and the early, large number of shoppers has dwindled.

Free enterprise can be a bitch.

Anonymous said...

James Howard Kunstler is full of himself, and, crap. Wal-Mart will not go away, ever!The reasons are simple economics.

They drive their suppliers because of their size; have been innovative in the areas of distribution technology and transportion systems; and, get higher returns on their investment than any other retail company in the world because of economies of scale and these key factors.

Their systems analysis abilities to manage and control manufacturing off-shore; flow of goods to this country (and world-wide); then redistribution through a system that collects money from you instatntly is not being challenged. And, they are getting better in all of these areas every day.

People run their mouths about Wal-Mart but still trade there. Do they really save money? They do not have a clue whether they do or do not.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:46, at least Kunstler signed his work.

I'm one of those "people who run their mouths against Wal-mart" and I don't shop there.

Bentonville sold out the U.S.A.

How come you are afraid to sign your work?

Jim the bus driver

Anonymous said...

And, right in the middle of this debate, Michelle Obama schedules to come to Springfield for an appearance at.........a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market.

I'll bet 90% of those opposed to the new location in Springfield voted for her husband.

Did Mr. Kunstler base his predictions on the facts that Wal-Mart is the world's largest employer (over 2 million associates); is the world's third largest corporation; gathers 51% of U.S. sales of over $250 billion from groceries; has over 100 million customers per week; has stores within 15 minutes drive-time of 90% of the U.S. population; has revenues of $36 million in sales every hour, 24-hours per day (8 cents of every dollar spent per day goes to Wal-Mart) with 84% of Americans shopping at their stores (with 81% of those shoppers surveyed saying Wal-Mart is a good place to shop); and most importantly has a team of people monitoring all methods of communication to respond to critics.

Anonymous said...

I have family who work for Price Cutter. Temporarily I hope. These guys brag about being "Union"...that's a joke. Go poll those cashiers and stockers. Almost everyone of them is making minimum is not uncommon for someone with 4-5 years experience to be making .20 cents over minimum wage. Geeeze guys, do your homework...Price Cutter is as close to slave labor as it gets....they're as bad or worse than Wal Mart.....who can afford any insurance when you make $7.25 per hour? Both these companies can brag that nearly every employee gets an EBT card for food stamps. Whoopie!!

It's all nonsense. It makes no difference whether you shop with Scabs #1 or Scabs #2. Ask you checkout clerk what she/he makes per'll see.


Anonymous said...

#10:59, thank you.

I have friends working at Price Cutter. Barely surviving economically while Eric Taylor and his family live the high life and sponsor golf tournaments. Eric has billboards touting 'employee-owned'.

That means Eric, his sister and other family members are employees and own the business. Ask any of the people working in the stores (not the managers) how much they own and they will tell you 'zero'.

I like the fact that most of the employees in the new Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets are former Price Cutter employees. They now smile while they work.

Eric came by it naturally, his Daddy (tragically killed in an accident in front of his home) had the exact same business mind.

Anonymous said...

"Bentonville sold out the U.S.A."


Don't you mean that the American consumer sold out the U.S.A. by buying 'major brands at discount prices' since about 1974 in Springfield?

We still have a choice of paying more for the same stuff at other stores..........but what's the point of doing that?

My friend June works at Wal-Mart in Kearney St. and worked for many years at K-Mart, across the street.

She says that Wal-Mart treats for better; appreciates her work ethic; and, is a lot more consumer oriented than K-Mart.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe the Price Cutter Market was making money anyway. Did they not tell that they were not?

It's Wal Marts world. WE gave them this power by shopping there and we cannot now gripe that they use it.

Sorry folks. Odds are those of you griping will shop there too.

See you there!

Sam W. said...

Anon 9:25--- you won't see me there.