Residents in the small community of Salmon Arm, British Columbia feel like they are swimming upstream in their fight against Wal-Mart Canada. How else to respond to a Mayor who says the Wal-Mart project is inevitable. Mayor Colin Mayes was quoted recently in the Salmon Arms Observer as saying: “I really believe you can’t stop it.” Hizzoner noted that the proposed Wal-Mart, which will be somewhere between 69,000 and 105,000 s.f. in size, would bring challenges to the merchants currently operating in Salmon Arm. Andrew Pelletier, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada, confirmed that the company is being targeted as “a potential market”. “It seems a Wal-Mart would be welcomed in the general area,” Pelletier said. Perhaps by Wal-Mart stockholders, but not necessarily by local residents. Pelletier told the newspaper that people don’t fear Wal-Mart as deeply as they used to, and that merchants now understand that a Wal-Mart will help keep shoppers in Salmon Arm, and not in nearby Vernon, where there is already a Wal-Mart. The giant retailer told local officials that it would be willing to help downtown businesses by putting up signs in their stores and announcements of events, “to minimize the damaging impact”, the Observer said. “We can’t be successful in a community unless it is healthy,” Pelletier said. But Wal-Mart can be healthy while the other merchants go out of business.
Sprawl is never inevitable. Local officials make it so, with their passive, uninformed approach to big box development. Salmon Arm opposition appears to be scattered at this point, but the town’s largest retail building will certainly “challenge” the rest of the community, and change forever its small town way of life. Studies indicate that a Wal-Mart provides little or no spin-off benefit to downtown businesses. Wal-Mart offer to help Salmon Arm merchants is seen by some locals as a fishy deal, at best, since a strong percentage of Wal-Mart’s sales are captured from existing merchants. In Salmon Arm, the Mayor’s “done deal” attitude sells out the existing merchants to a multi-national retailer.