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2005-07-02
Omagh, N.Ireland. Residents Upset By Wal-Mart Takeover Of Safeways

Retail abhors a vacuum, and Northern Ireland is suffering from a political vacuum, as there is no local government in power that can do anything to control land use development. Local residents in the city of Omagh, County Tyrone, are organizing to oppose plans by the British company, Asda/Wal-Mart, to move into the Safeway stores in Northern Ireland. Neighbors fear that once they are established, Wal-Mart will start the process of building hypermarkets (supercenters) outside of the town centers. Sprawl-Busters received a copy of this letter from Kate Conway of Omagh, which was published in the Irish Times. Here is an edited version of that letter: "So Asda/Wal-Mart will soon be moving in to all the old Safeway stores. Great, you may say. Asda sells good food, a popular range of clothing, everything you could possibly need. You name it they'll stack it high and sell it cheap. Yippee, we'll drive miles to Asda and get everything under one roof at grrrrreat prices. Well, here's one person that won't. Asda was a Leeds based chain until it sold out to the giant American corporation, Wal-Mart. The biggest and richest retail outfit in the world. I've nothing against being big, rich or American, but I have plenty against Wal-Mart... the recent arrival of a large Asda/Wal-Mart superstore on the edge of Frome, Somerset, will deliver the deathblow to a once thriving market town. An existing supermarket has, according to the local Chamber of Commerce, already destroyed 20-30% of the shops in the centre of Frome. "The town centre will soon be a ghost town; containing only a few tacky shops selling low quality rubbish". Does any of this ring a bell? Your town could soon be another... Frome. Big Business does not invest in an area; it extracts wealth, sucking the life-blood of a community. A small number of jobs may be created, but these are low skilled and low paid. The few higher paid jobs go to people who are here today and gone tomorrow. Money that flows in to Asda is money that is drained from the local economy. Money fed into local, small, family businesses is recycled within the community. Asda's "Associates" as staff are called, are expected to embrace US culture and traditions. I'm as multicultural as the next woman, but the Americanization of the world is now out of hand. Asda say that they will source local produce. Well, watch out local producers, the 6% saving that Asda says they will give Northern Ireland shoppers will be at your cost. In the US, Wal-Mart is facing constant charges concerning its anti-union policy and its use of sweatshop conditions in its factories in developing countries... Despite the might of Asda/Wal-Mart the real power is still in our hands. Choose not to go there. Choose to keep our diverse and interesting town and village shops. Choose to improve the local economy, not help destroy it."



What you can do: Kate Conway is considering organizing a local group in Omagh to encourage residents to stay out of the Asda/Wal-Mart. For local contacts in Omagh, contact info@sprawl-busters.com. Northern Ireland, having no effective government for years, cannot turn to local or state officials for help, and their elected officials do not wish to turn to Parliament in London for help. What's left to defend their communities is just the power of the organized consumer. As Sam Walton wrote, "Our customers are supporting us. If they stopped, our earnings would simply disappear, and we'd all be out looking for new jobs."










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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