Wal-Mart and Downtown Renewal

Max Borders defends Wal-Mart against the “Mom-and-Pop store killer” charge (yawn…) today on Tech Central Station:

The question becomes: do we really need small, inefficient and expensive shops to supply us with our shaving cream and plastic laundry baskets? How vibrant is a downtown where such items are being hocked? Since Wal-Mart consolidates these kinds of goods into “big boxes,” we […] can get them for dirt cheap all in one place. Charming downtown areas can then evolve into gorgeous window-shopping and restaurant-hopping districts for both locals and tourists. In the meantime, everyone knows where to go to get the bare necessities quickly and at a lower cost. The Wal-Mart effect is happening all over the country, allowing many municipalities to renew their town centers. In fact, residents able to reduce their day-to-day shopping budgets at Wal-Mart have more money left to spend on the things that make life great and towns charming — whether it’s hand-blown glass or delicious roadside produce grown by local farmers. (Take it from me, no big box can do Silver Queen corn like North Carolina farmers on the side of the road.) . . . . The Wal-Mart effect may be destructive from time to time, but it’s also profoundly creative. Wal-Mart has inadvertently hastened the pace of specialization and municipal renewal. As consumers, of course, we only benefit from the presence of Wal-Mart and other big box retailers. People in developing countries and at home are being lifted from squalor because Wal-Mart seeks out the great, low-cost products they offer. Wal-Mart is also giving a lot of people opportunities to earn a living — including retirees who want to stay active as well as immigrants prepared to accept the wages Wal-Mart offers.

Check out the full article here.