Wal-Mart's Effect On Economic Development

Wal-Mart's intense focus on low prices is forcing its suppliers out of the U.S. to places that have lower standards of living and less regulation.
November 20, 2003, 9am PST | Chris Steins | @urbaninsight
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Wal-Mart is the world's most powerful retailer, and has become Adam Smith's invisible hand in the market. The company "does more business than Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Safeway, and Kroger combined... But what almost no one outside the world of Wal-Mart and its 21,000 suppliers knows is the high cost of those low prices. Wal-Mart has the power to squeeze profit-killing concessions from vendors. To survive in the face of its pricing demands, makers of everything from bras to bicycles to blue jeans have had to lay off employees and close U.S. plants in favor of outsourcing products from overseas... Wal-Mart has also lulled shoppers into ignoring the difference between the price of something and the cost. Its unending focus on price underscores something that Americans are only starting to realize about globalization: Ever-cheaper prices have consequences. Says Steve Dobbins, president of thread maker Carolina Mills: 'We want clean air, clear water, good living conditions, the best health care in the world -- yet we aren't willing to pay for anything manufactured under those restrictions.' "

Thanks to The Practice of New Urbanism Listserv

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Published on Thursday, November 20, 2003 in Fast Company
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