Chain Stores Aren't A Bad Thing For Cities

<p>Urbanists lament the cookie-cutter retail landscape, but the fact remains that national chains provide the types of goods and services that consumers want.</p>
November 30, 2006, 6am PST | Christian Madera | @cpmadera
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"Stores don't give places their character. Terrain and weather and culture do. Familiar retailers may take some of the discovery out of travel-to the consternation of journalists looking for obvious local color -- but by holding some of the commercial background constant, chains make it easier to discern the real differences that define a place..."

"Besides, the idea that America was once filled with wildly varied business establishments is largely a myth. Big cities could, and still can, support more retail niches than small towns. And in a less competitive national market, there was certainly more variation in business efficiency-in prices, service, and merchandise quality. But the range of retailing ideas in any given town was rarely that great. One deli or diner or lunch counter or cafeteria was pretty much like every other one. A hardware store was a hardware store, a pharmacy a pharmacy. Before it became a ubiquitous part of urban life, Starbucks was, in most American cities, a radically new idea."

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Published on Wednesday, November 29, 2006 in The Atlantic Monthly
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