Who Needs Mom And Pop?
Just a quick jump into the Wal-Mart fray. Kevin Drum thinks
that the era of big box retailers is here to stay, and if that means that we no longer get the variety of a bunch of little "mom and pop" stores down the street, well, too bad. Max Sawicky isn't too happy
with this state of affairs, but he still says, "In economics the trade-off between cost and uniformity on the one side, and variety on the other, is basic."
Wal-Mart kill variety? Most of the "mom and pop" stores I know just sell basic junk that isn't any more exciting than what you find in Wal-Mart (often it's less
exciting). The interesting stores, meanwhile, don't really compete with Wal-Mart—stores selling antiques, or "local history" stuff, or prints, or offbeat clothing. When the dust settles, I would imagine Wal-Mart adds
variety, by forcing its small competitors to specialize or die. Assuming, of course, that some specialize. Perhaps Wal-Mart even helps some of its small competitors by giving consumers more time and money to do "specialty" shopping. (Location might help too: people do their basic shopping at Wal-Mart, head out to the car, spot some other small store in the plaza that looks interesting, and pop in for a look.) On the other hand, you might see this effect more in cities than in suburban areas. There's also the internet to compensate for, say, the dingy used music place shutting down—though we'll certainly
all miss the record store girl
To be clear, obviously
this isn't the biggest Wal-Mart issue around, but Nathan Newman
, et. al. have already covered the (vastly) more important wage/unionization/workplace regulation angles. No disagreement there. Just thought I'd add another 1/2-cent point.