I mentioned in the last post that WalMart was selling DMC floss at retail prices below the wholesale price Indie shops and designers had to pay. As a chain store, WalMart has the power to bargain for (or insist on) low prices from manufacturers because they buy in tremendous bulk. This is common practice. I’ve offered deals to shops when they buy greater quantities, and I’ve gotten deals for items I’ve purchased in bulk.
However, when chain stores can sell products at lower prices than non-chain stores that don’t buy in that kind of bulk, non-chain stores can’t compete and often go out of business. In recent months, I watched a small gas station go out of business after a large Fred Meyer gas station was built across the street. I’ve seen many, many Indie needlework shops close their doors.
Believe it or not, I actually thought the chain store issue was a somewhat modern issue. Boy was I wrong!
Chain stores rose to prominence with startling speed after WWI, growing in number from an estimated 50,000 in 1920 to 141,492 in 1929.
Protestors in the 1920s called the chains “privilege-seeking tycoons and would-be dictators.”
Station KWKH owner and operator, William K. “Old Man” Henderson of Shreveport, LA, proud forefather of the modern shock jock, warned listeners of the ruinous and devastating effect of sending the profits of business out of our local communities to a common center: Wall Street.
Were you aware that this chain store controversy has been around for so long?
I shop at some chain stores. I appreciate being able to buy some things in bulk at Costco. I live far from town, and I prefer to shop infrequently. While traveling in South America a couple of years ago, I shopped for food almost daily. One day, I had four items on my list and had to go to three shops to get them. They were all food items. The biggest store in the area was about the size of an average American living room. I confess I prefer one-stop shopping.
But I also appreciate the friendly atmosphere and personal attention I can get from a small locally-owned business. One of the things I liked about that trip to South America was that shop owners got to know me, and I got friendly, personal service. When I was in a hurry, I grabbed my usual loaf of bread at the paneria, showed my $2.00 to the owner, reached over the shelf, and put it on the counter. She smiled, nodded, and waved, continuing to wait on the slow, indecisive customers. Can you see me trying to do that at Costco?
Then there’s the issue of my money supporting the local economy or supporting a large corporation located who-knows-where.
I feel pulled in two directions: I like the low cost and convenience of some chains, but I like the personal service of small local businesses, and I like supporting the local economy.
What’s your position on chain stores? Do you fall in one camp or the other, or are you also divided between the two?