Wal-Mart as Engine for Local Economies?

Some Canadian communities are seeing their local economies thriving despite -- or is it because of? -- the presence of Wal-Mart.
October 26, 2008, 1pm PDT | Michael Dudley
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"Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, forces rivals to pull up their socks and differentiate their offerings from it. The discounter invariably attracts an array of other big-box merchants to spots close to it, and its low prices and wide array of products draw shoppers from surrounding neighbourhoods.

The discounter can also create sterile-looking shopping pods at a city's outskirts, sucking life out of a community's downtown. It is often the anchor for a power centre that is dotted with big box outlets in vast parking lots.

Even so, the entry of Wal-Mart into a market pinches less than 10 per cent of local stores' business, says Paul McElhone, associate director of the retailing school at the University of Alberta's School of Business. 'As bad as it is, these are often marginal businesses anyway,' Prof. McElhone says. 'When Wal-Mart comes to town, it makes other businesses better.'"

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Published on Friday, October 24, 2008 in Globe and Mail
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