Walmart Blues Series

Transition and Walmart: Some thoughts from England about Big Box expansion and Being Local


From ROB HOPKINS
Transition Culture

“Another world is not only possible… she’s opening a bakery round the corner”. Reflections on the Portas Review.. “Local people”, she argues need to be seen “as co-creators not simply consumers”…

We have very little time to make this stuff happen, it needs to happen now…

[“High Street” in England means “Main Street” here… -DS]

I spent a fascinating afternoon on Monday at an ‘Economic Summit’ (nowhere near as glamorous as it sounds) for Members of South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council.  The meeting was called to update councillors on the strategic thinking within the councils in terms of the economic development of the area and to hear their views on it.  Three communities were invited to present to the councillors the work they were doing to regenerate their economies, and Totnes was one of them.  What I want to do in this post is two things simultaneously.  I want to give some reflections from that meeting, but also give a review of ‘The Portas Review’ (“an independent review into the future of our high streets”) which was published yesterday.  Together they give a sense of the two deeply different narratives that were on show at the Summit, the dangers that their incompatibility presents, as well as the opportunities that emerge.

Is your stuff falling apart? You can thank Walmart


From STACY MITCHELL
Institute for Local Self-Reliance

My friend Tony’s closet is as good a place as any to begin an investigation of Walmart’s environmental impact. Tony has a pair of Levi’s that date back to high school more than 20 years ago. They still fit him and they’re still in rotation. The fabric has a smooth patina that hints at its age, but, compared to another pair of Levi’s he bought only a couple of years ago, this pair actually looks far less worn. The denim is sturdier, the seams more substantial, the rivets bigger.

Tony’s old pair of Levi’s may well have been made in the U.S, and they likely cost more than his new pair. The new ones were manufactured abroad — Levi’s closed its last U.S. factory in 2003 — and, though Tony didn’t buy them at Walmart, their shoddy construction can be blamed at least in part on the giant retailer and the way it’s reshaping manufacturing around the world.

Since 1994, the consumer price of apparel, in real terms, has fallen by 39 percent. “It is now possible to buy clothing, long a high-priced and valuable commodity, by the pound, for prices comparable to cheap agricultural products,” notes Juliet Schor. Cheapness — and the decline in durability that has accompanied it — has triggered an astonishing increase in the amount of clothing we buy. In the mid-1990s, the average American bought 28 items of clothing a year. Today, we buy 59 items. We also throw away an average of 83 pounds of textiles per person

Walmart has done more than any other company to undermine the American middle class and force an ever-growing share of the population into working poverty


From STACY MITCHELL
Institute of Local Self-Reliance

The main way the Waltons got their wealth is by squeezing workers at every point along Walmart’s supply chain.

The Waltons currently own 49 percent of Walmart stock. The six Waltons, heirs to Walmart founder Sam Walton, not only have a net worth equal to the combined wealth of the bottom 30 percent of Americans, as we learned last week from University of California economist Sylvia Allegretto, but they also own and control nearly half of Walmart, the world’s largest corporation.

That’s an astounding fact. Last year, Walmart had sales of $422 billion and generated $16 billion in profits. That’s quite a cash stream for a single family to be able to dip into, year after year.

While one could argue that other wealthy corporate founders made their money by producing something that benefited society as whole — the founders of Google, Apple, and Microsoft, for example, introduced products that fueled the creation of many new businesses and jobs — that’s not the case with the Waltons.

How Walmart’s sprawl drives climate change


From STACY MITCHELL
Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Walmart’s biggest climate impact goes ignored

Earlier this year, the New Jersey Sierra Club and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance tried but failed to block a permit for a new Walmart supercenter in the small coastal town of Toms River. The development, now moving forward, will destroy habitat for the threatened northern pine snake. What’s especially frustrating about the project, local environmentalists say, is that Walmart already has a store in Toms River. It’s just a mile down the road and will be shuttered when the new supercenter opens.The Toms River site is one of several environmentally sensitive areas Walmart aims to pave over in the coming months. Many follow a similar pattern. In Copley, Ohio, Walmart wants to develop 40 acres of fields and wetlands, and then close another store a mile away. In Davie, Fla., the chain is seeking permission to destroy 17 acres of wetlands to build in a location that’s just a 15-minute drive from six other Walmart stores.

Even as Walmart has been hyping its supposed environmental epiphany, it has continued to unroll vast, low-rise supercenters at breakneck speed. Since launching its sustainability campaign in 2005, Walmart has expanded the amount of store space it operates

Walmart’s Greenwash


From STACY MITCHELL
Grist

Sustainability as growth strategy

Walmart’s growth has been go-go-go ever since it launched its sustainability initiative. Walmart adopted sustainability as a corporate strategy in 2005. It was struggling mightily at the time. Bad headlines stalked the chain, as its history of mistreating workers and suppliers finally caught up with it. One analysis found that as many as 8 percent of Walmart’s customers had stopped shopping at its stores. Grassroots groups were blocking or delaying one-third of its development projects. Stockholders were growing nervous. Between 2000 and 2005, Walmart’s share price fell 20 percent.

As then-CEO Lee Scott told The New York Times, improving labor conditions would cost too much. It would also mean ceding some control to employees and perhaps even a union. Going green was a better option for repairing the company’s image. It offered ways to cut costs and, rather than undermining Walmart’s control, sustainability could actually augment its power over suppliers. Environmentalism also had strong appeal among urban liberals in the Northeast and West Coast—the very markets Walmart needed to penetrate in order to keep its U.S. growth going.

Since Scott first unveiled Walmart’s sustainability program, the company’s head office in Bentonville, Ark., has issued a steady stream of announcements about cutting energy use, reducing waste, and, more recently, selling healthier food. Most of these announcements declare goals, not achievements. But the goals sound audacious enough to reliably produce sweeping headlines and breathless accounts of how Walmart could remake the world by bending industrial production to its will.

By 2010, the number of Americans reporting an unfavorable view of Walmart had fallen by nearly half, from a peak of 38 percent in 2005, to 20 percent.

What the news media haven’t reported

Wal-Mart Now Wants to Colonize New York City


From STACY MITCHELL
Institute for Local Self-Reliance

[With Wal-Mart expanding locally, Costco coming to town, and DDR once more smacking their lips over the Masonite site, let’s go through this one more time. We will again experience a net elimination of jobs. We are being carpet bombed by Big Box businesses, and here are the documented reasons why that is bad news for every community… -DS]

An overflow crowd of hundreds turned out yesterday at a New York City Council hearing on the impact Wal-Mart would have if allowed to expand into the city. The world’s largest company, which currently has no New York City stores, wants to open dozens of outlets across all five boroughs.

Jim Hightower: Meet Your New Neighborhood Food Market


From JIM HIGHTOWER
Otherwords

[Locally in Ukiah we have the Walmart store massively expanding its food section, adding 80 employees, which will destroy at least one, maybe two supermarkets and 120 better-paying jobs for a net loss of 40+ jobs. See also: Big Box Bully: Walmart Is Out To Kill Every Other Store In Town; and Watch the Bully metastasize (carpet-bomb) before your very eyes. -DS]

The $400-billion-a-year retail behemoth, with two million employees laboring in 8,500 stores spread around the globe, is putting on a “local” mask.

The signature phrase of America’s booming good food movement has been expanded from “organic” to “local and sustainable.”

Good! The phrase suggests great quality, strong environmental stewardship, and a commitment to keeping our food dollars in the local economy. If you support the local-economies movement, as I do, no doubt you’ll be thrilled to hear that a new, local food store is coming soon to your neighborhood. In fact, it’s even named Neighborhood Market.

Only, it’s not. It’s a Walmart. Yes, the $400-billion-a-year retail behemoth, with two million employees laboring in 8,500 stores spread around the globe, now is putting on a “local” mask. The giant is promising to buy nine percent of the produce it’ll sell from local farmers. Big whoopie. This means that 91 percent of the foodstuffs offered in its “Neighborhood” chain will come from Wayawayland.

But even the nine percent number is a deceit, for Walmart says that it defines “local” as grown in the same state. Excuse me, but

It’s Not Worth It



From MICHAEL LAYBOURN
Hopland

It’s not worth it. That $2 you might save at a big chain or buy on the internet.

This notion struck me solidly the other day when I read about Spencer Brewer’s music store closing. I consider Spencer one of the community’s greatest assets. An excellent musician himself, Spencer has brought music into our valley in so many ways: his recording studio, a music school and performance space, Music in the Park, producing local music shows at his shop, piano concerts and his shop itself. Essential gifts for our community. But customers weren’t buying from his store because they thought the internet was cheaper.

Now I was an early internet fan and have purchased many things by catalog. But I’ve learned to adjust my thinking, because, well, it’s just not worth it. Cheap is not value. The lowest price is not the best deal. First of all, someone local will help you get it fixed if there is a problem. Secondly, the owner and staff of that store generally has some product knowledge and can help you make an informed choice.

Ukiah: Wal-Mart Gearing Up to Kill More of Our Good-Paying Union Jobs and Wipe Out Our Local Food Security


Racing To The Bottom

Wal-Mart has applied for a Site Development Permit to expand its existing store on Airport Park Boulevard from approximately 109,000 square feet to approximately 160,000 square feet. The primary purposes of the expansion are to accommodate grocery sales and to enlarge the general merchandise area. City staff has determined that an applicant funded Environmental Impact Report is required for the project and the applicants agreed. This agenda item at Wednesday night’s (12/2) City Council meeting is seeking approval of the consulting firm to prepare the EIR, approval of the draft professional services contract…

See also Big Box Bully: Wal-Mart Wants To Kill Every Other Store In Town

…and Spokane Considers Community Bill of Rights
~~