Wal-Mart in Los Angeles

Reason magazine has an interesting article about Wal-Mart in L.A.

"Ugly." "Devastating." "Race to the bottom." Barbs about the latest Hollywood film or reality TV show? No. Just a few choice words from opponents of Wal-Mart Stores' expansion efforts into Los Angeles' retailing market.

Like the flicks and sitcoms churned out by the major studios in the City of Angels, the retail giant's plan to build 40 so-called supercenters—jumbo versions of the stores where it peddles produce and other grocery items along with cheap Levis-Strauss "Signature" jeans and Crosman BB and Pellet Guns—has attracted its own share of powerful critics.

Nothing stirs the ire of anti-big box activists like the thought of an expansion effort by the world's largest retailer. Wal-Mart has been bashed for a variety of ills, from allegedly ruining the historic character of neighborhoods to driving out small retailers and turning downtowns into "ghost towns." That many of these trends are either a natural evolution or a result of the popularity of cars rarely comes into the reasoning of the opponents.

I've said it before, and I will say it again – size is only a competitive advantage to a point. Despite the claims some make about the economy, this is a wealthy (or, at least an indebted) nation. People don't care as much about price. Design, quality, aesthetics, etc. is all becoming more and more important. Wal-Mart is starting to embrace that in a few places, but I think in ten years, it will be obvious that they are losing their dominant status. The trend has already begun, with people who refuse to shop there because the stores are messy and crowded and the clerks aren't helpful. Low price was a good strategy, but the economy has changed. Wal-Mart must too, or else face eroding market share.

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