The municipal council in North Grenville, Ontario this week approved the rezoning of 84 acres of land for a 118,000 s.f. Wal-Mart. But local residents who oppose the plan are expected to file an appeal with the Ontario Municipal Board. The Citizens for Responsible Development (CRD) has been lobbying to cap the size of the Wal-Mart at 36,000 s.f. In response to opponents charges that Wal-Mart only brings low-wage jobs, one councilor told the Brockville Recorder & Times, “We don’t really have a lot of high-paying jobs in North Grenville, anyway. We’ve been looking for industry and commercial development here for many years.” Opponents said the project will harm local businesses. They claim the developers have admitted that existing businesses see a downturn in sales for five years before it rebounds. “The mom-and-pop operations, and we have quite a few of them in town, they can’t take a loss like that for five years,” one resident explained. Residents also noted that Wal-Mart will shut down its store if workers attempt to unionize, as they did in Jonquiere. Opponents also disagree that this project will be a retail magnet for other surrounding communities. Many of those other communities are going to have their own Wal-Marts to shop at.
There is no evidence to support the idea that small business will see a “rebound” in sales if they can wait out 5 years of a Wal-Mart. First, no small business can put profits on hold for 5 years, waiting for an upturn, and second, there is no upturn to wait for. Studies done by Tom Muller and Ken Stone have shown clearly that smaller outlets that sell merchandise similar to what Wal-Mart sells will lose revenues. But more obvious, the struggling retail sector demonstrates that Wal-Mart has largely succeeded by taking away market share from other retailers, not by expanding the pie. The existence of a large chain store does not expand discretionary spending by consumers. The enormous negative impact on the grocery industry, for example, shows that the top grocery stores before Wal-Mart began opening up superstores, have lost considerable market share since. So there is no “rebound” or “recovery” once Wal-Mart arrives. For other stories of Canadian battles against Wal-Mart, search Newsflash by “Canada.”