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2007-06-11
West Des Moines, IA. Wal-Mart’s Impact on “A Small World”

As the Presidential candidates swarm around Iowa, will any of them find the Wal-Mart story that has been kicking around that state for more than 35 years now? There are countless stories, like this one, from a merchant in Iowa, who found out that retailing can be a very small world. Here is his story, sent this week to Sprawl-Busters: "I now own a small antique store in West Des Moines, Iowa in a small place called Historic Valley Junction. It is the original small railroad town strip from the late 1800's. It has all small businesses and restaurants. Prior to owning an antique store I owned a retail store. We had a mix of items from greeting cards to Wizard of Oz. We tried to carry lines of toys and fun things not carried by the box stores. The store (A Small World) was in business for sixteen years. I finally had to close and lost everything I had ever saved -- around $285,000. Most of our problem was caused by a Wal-Mart located not too far from Valley Junction. An example of our problem was we had a PEZ candy section. We carried a new line of PEZ key chains. I purchased them out of New York for $1.75 plus shipping and sold them for $3.50. One of the last times I was in Wal-Mart there they were by the check out lanes for $1.79. There is no way to compete or explain to a customer the difference in price. While I still had A Small World, I was asked by a small town to come down and appraise antiques for their small town celebration. I was happy to do so. On the way home I stopped in my Dad's hometown of Indianola, Iowa. Indianola now has a Wal-Mart. The town square had two stores left....everything else was gone. It made me sick. When I closed out my store and switched to antiques, I took the few dollars left and created our BOYCOTT WALMART bracelets. We sell them for $2.50 or wholesale them to towns or groups with a cause for fundraising. Our main goal is to remind people to save small towns and businesses. BUY LOCAL whenever possible. Some people do not have a choice...someday none of us might not. From selling the bracelets I have met many people. Many union men, independent grocers -- people with a story: Bad wages, benefits, but most of all how it effected their towns. I will never forget a man that drove 45 minutes each way to West Des Moines to buy two bracelets for his wife for Mother's Day. I told him it was not necessary, I would have mailed them to him. He said he enjoyed the ride, he used the time to remember what his town used to be like before Wal-Mart. Another lady came and bought three, one for herself, one for a coworker, and one for the pharmacist where she worked. They had just broken ground for a Wal-Mart in her town and knew the local pharmacist on the square for 30 years would be pushed out of business. There are many stories I could share. I am not out to get rich, but hopefully reach a national audience to remind people to support local business or help their cause to save their small towns and businesses."



What you can do: It's a small world, after all. Most merchants, when asked by the media, what impact Wal-Mart will have on them, put on a brave face and say, 'Oh, we may lose some sales at first, but then we'll bounce back. Our customer service is superior, and we'll do alright." But they know they won't. Then, half a year later, they are gone. Closed. This merchant who contacted Sprawl-Busters from Iowa, says he lost his shirt when Wal-Mart came to town. He still owes his parents $40,000. Now he's switched to the antique business -- -- and selling black and blue marble bracelets that say, "FIGHT BACK ! BOYCOTT WALMART" "These prices wont be dropping" "They have beaten small town America and businesses black and blue." This small world message may be too small town for the Presidential hopefuls who bring their multi-million campaigns through the state. But this is what has happened to small merchants everywhere. To order bracelets, contact mrpta@aol.com or saynowalmart@aol.com










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

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