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2005-10-25
Livingston, AL. Another Town Wal-Mart Killed Twice

Today's Huntsville Times, Alabama opinion column narrates the story of another town that Wal-Mart killed twice -- once on the way in, and again on the way out. Livingston is located in the west Alabama county of Sumter. It has a small state university, but it's been losing population base for years. The overall population in Livingston is now less than 15,000. Around 2 in 5 people in the community are poor. Twenty-five years ago, Wal-Mart came to town. Some local businesses went under at the time -- even though that 1980 model was just a discount store, and not a supercenter. But now, Livingston is going to have to live without its Wal-Mart discount store, because the retailer is shutting it down in favor of a larger superstore in Demopolis, roughly 30 miles to the east. Wal-Mart told the newspaper that it does not build superstores as close as 30 miles apart -- which is totally untrue. So the 60 employees at the Livingston Wal-Mart are either going to have to travel to Demopolis for work, or find another employer. Local Wal-Mart shoppers are now left to fend for themselves for cheap underwear. Local officials are now scrambling around to find other stores that can fill the Wal-Mart gap. "There are few places to shop in Livingston," one resident told the Times. "I think losing Wal-Mart presents more problems for people in a small town like this than for those who live in larger cities and have more choices." But opinion columnist John Ehinger says the decision by Wal-Mart was based on one factor, and one factor only: "Even Wal-Mart, popular with lower-income families, finds that some communities just don't do enough for the bottom line." "At best, Wal-Mart's behavior is unsavory," Ehinger writes. "It drove out its competitors but felt no real responsibility to continue to serve its customers... Consolidation in the retail economy is inevitably bad for the consumer. In most cases, it results in higher prices. In others, it could actually leave people with no place to buy the things they need... In the face of such public-policy failures, little wonder the Wal-Marts of the world graze where they can and then move on when they spot greener pastures elsewhere."

What you can do: Similar "twice killed" stories have caught the media's attention in places like Hearne, Texas, Nowata and Pawhuksa, Oklahoma, and elsewhere. Wal-Mart changes stores as casually as you and I change shoes. Unsavory? In the free market, corporations are free to ruin communities, and leave the market hanging.










 
 
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