The devastating impact of superstores on small town America has not been lost on other countries. Ireland, Norway, and now Argentina have placed limits on the size of retail buildings. According to the Chain Store Age Executive FAX report of June 23rd, the Argentine government has passed a law that outlaws the construction of “hypermarkets” larger than 10,000 s.f in towns with less than 300,000 people, and bans stores larger than 20,000 s.f in cities with more than 300,000 people. This new law does not sit well with Home Depot, which already has stores in Chile and two under construction in Buenos Aires. The head of Home Depot’s South American operations paid a visit to the Governor of Buenos Aires to convince him that Home Depot “falls outside of the definition of a hypermarket” according to the Chain Store Age Executive. Yeah, right. That big size is just an optical illusion.
Companies like Wal-Mart and Home Depot are very dependent on their international stores to keep the sales volume humming. In their 2000 Annual Report, Wal-Mart boasted of a “banner year for international expansion”. In less than a decade, Wal-Mart has built 1,000 stores in its international division, and expects sales to exceed $30 billion. International is Wal-Mart’s and Home Depot’s “emerging market”. But in the emerging markets, public officials do not want to see a repeat performance of what has happened all across America. Some communities in the United States have also learned the lesson, and are placing caps on the size of retail stores, a move that is well within the purview of local zoning powers (see newsflash pages below for entries on building caps).