It has been my experience (she says, noting that she sounds less like an intolerant prat when she says something like that) that whenever a big box chain store opens up, all the independent stores suffer. They suffer to the point where they close down.
Now, capitalists say this is a good thing. They say “Rah! Rah! Free Enterprise!” They say, “If Mom and Pop can’t survive in the world of business, they should get out.” They say, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
But that’s not entirely accurate. Free Enterprise, first of all, assumes that everyone kind of gets the same *chance* to survive. Independent stores don’t have huge budgets to throw at advertising; they don’t have huge budgets to throw at ginormous stores in overpriced real estate markets. They don’t have the kind of liquidity from “head office” to hire real estate speculators and interior designers with MBAs in “where to put stuff”, and they don’t have liquidity from head office to buy more stock than they know what to do with, or will ever be able to move.
I don’t think there is anywhere in the world that has a true “Free Enterprise” system. Somewhere big business doesn’t get corporate tax breaks, civic property tax incentives, government buy-outs, etc., etc., etc..
Independents are important, because they provide choice for the market. And what happens when a big box retail store moves in, is that all the “Mom and Pops” end up closing their doors, which means that now, you only have the choice of products offered at the big box retail stores. So if you’re looking for locally-grown produce, you’re SOL. If you’re looking for a book published by a local press, or (often) written by a local person, you’re SOL. If you really want to buy bath products made without chemically scents with all natural ingredients, you’re SOL. You have to go to the Big Green Store (and most of the stuff in that store is probably not grown or produced in Canada, so you’re sending your hard-earned money to Taiwan and Florida and California) or the horrid bookstore where they put Robert Kroestch’s The Studhorse Man in the SCIENCE FICTION SECTION, or you’re going to the brand-name warehouse store or kitchen/bath focus store and you’re looking at hand lotion called “Vanilla Scent” that smells like rancid motor oil.
Losing independents means local producers have nowhere to distribute, sell, and market their own products. It means consumers don’t even have the *choice* to support their local producers and industries. It means that the people who suffer most are the people who live in the same area/town/region.
Something else you don’t hear about often (but should) is that local independents tend to support local charities, teams, nonprofits, events, and organisations far, FAR more than the big box chains. When was the last time you saw the Superstore™ minor hockey tournament, or the Indigo™ book festival? I can tell you from experience that independents *do* support these things. With more dollars that they can’t afford than big box retail.
Independents aren’t about the bottom line, usually. Usually the folks involved in independent retail are folks who actually kind of care about what they’re doing. At least, that’s incredibly true for bookstores and hardware stores and organic/local produce stores.
One more thing. Independents also shell out a hell of a lot more money in advertising dollars to local print (newspapers and magazines), radio, and television stations, and even to local web advertising companies. They contribute more to the local economy, they tend to have less staff turnover (which is a good thing in the long run), they support local producers (part of supporting the local economy, I guess), they tend to have better quality merchandise, and in many cases, a much better selection. Better customer service, and folks more dedicated to their business.
Shop locally. Shop independents. Spend your money where it’s going to have the most impact on your own local economy.