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2007-11-23
Sylvan Lake, Alberta. Mayor Predicts Negative Impacts On Local Businesses From Wal-Mart.

Sylvan Lake calls itself "A Town For All Seasons." Sylvan Lake is situated in Central Alberta, midway between Alberta's largest cities, Edmonton and Calgary, and is the gateway to the Beautiful Sylvan Lake Provincial Park. Sylvan Lake boasts of its year round tourism with the Lake a primary attraction. In 2007, the Town of Sylvan Lake reached a population of 10,208 up from 7,503 in 2001. This is a 36.1% change in population since 2001. The Town of Sylvan Lake was named the Fastest Growing Rural Community in Canada between 5,000-10,000 populations. Sylvan Lake has doubled in population in the last 10 years. For this same reason, the world's biggest retailer wants to open a 115,000 s.f. supercenter in Beju Industrial Park next year, said Wal-Mart Canada's director of corporate communications. "I think people will notice everything from the colors of the store to the space that we've provided for movement and checkouts." Wal-Mart Canada opened its first supercenter last fall. There are now 17 superstores in Canada, with six in Alberta and the rest in Ontario. Outgoing Mayor Bryan Lambertson said he thinks Wal-Mart "will have a good impact. They really don't carry the kind of goods that will impact the majority of our stores. Our downtown stores are more specialized and
boutique-sort-of-things." Sylvan Lake's Wal-Mart will anchor a 25-acre shopping center. Last week, the town's municipal planning commission granted conditional site plan approval for the first phase of the project, which involves only the construction of the Wal-Mart supercenter. The developer, SmartCentres, said at full build-out the mall will have more than 300,000 s.f. of stores, including another big box tenant. "I suspect you'll be seeing more construction there, probably in the summer of 2008," a spokesman for Smart Centres told the Red Deer Advocate newspaper. "We see a town with a very bright future."

What you can do: In response to growing citizen concern about this Wal-Mart supercenter, newly-elected Mayor Susan Samson (who garnered 88% of the vote) sent the following middle-of-the-road email message to her constituents about Wal-Mart: "Your concerns about a Wal-Mart in Sylvan Lake are well-founded. It is inconceivable to expect that there will not be a negative economic impact on independent businesses who offer an overlap of similar goods and services of a Wal-Mart. There is also a severe labor shortage across the province for retail workers at retail wages. To add to the problem, we do not have an affordable housing solution that would provide accommodation for families that could survive on retail wages. On the positive side, it increases our commercial tax base and will draw shoppers from the surrounding areas to our community and to other stores as well. Our independent retailers provide better, personalized service and I would expect focus on niche markets. It appears that when Sylvan Lake's population hit 10,000 it came into the sights of the big box retailers. (Wal-Mart, Sobeys, Shoppers Drug Mart and rumors of a Canadian Tire) We are the fastest growing community with the youngest demographics. The small town feel, the lake resort community is changing. Had the previous Council denied the Wal-Mart application, it could have located on Highway 11, just outside the town boundaries in the county of Red Deer. There taxes would be lower for Wal-Mart and still be in a position to get a huge share of the retail dollar. This scenario does not provide any positive spin off to the economic well being of Sylvan Lake. As the new Mayor, where do we go from here? I am working closely with the Chamber of Commerce to provide customer service seminars, joint marketing strategies and an expansion of the current downtown Business Revitalization Zone. We are committing major dollars and energies to upgrade Lakeshore Drive and all independent businesses located in the vicinity will benefit. Some businesses see this as an opportunity, others do not. They are both right." Unfortunately, Mayor Samson is going to find that "customer service seminars" don't mean much to price-sensitive consumers, who are looking for cheap underwear -- not for customer service. The Mayor cannot have her local businesses and get a supercenmter too. A number of other Canadian communities are already battling Wal-Mart. Sylvan Lake could become the lastest big box battleground. Readers are urged to contact Sylvan Lake's new Mayor, Susan Samson at 403-887-3387, or by email: susan.samson@telus.net. Tell the Mayor: "You are right about Wal-Mart. A supercenter will have a negative economic impact on independent businesses in Sylvan Lake. If this superstore is approved, you can change your slogan to 'A Wal-Mart For All Seasons,' because the retailer will dominate the market all year long."










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

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