Walmart, are they good or bad for a community?

Big box stores. Good or bad the decision is yours.

Walmart has been slammed, maligned, welcomed, boycotted, embraced, loved and hated. This is probably true of any big box retailer yet they seem to be front and center when it comes to threats to a community. 

Walmart advertises  "Low price, Always" which may or may not be true when you look at a single item but generally they appear to be the low price leader but competition from others is eroding the price differential.  This is all in favor of the consumer as low prices especially in the food area has gone a long way in increasing a family's standard of living.  In the current economy most of us hope to just hold our own.

Do a little comparison shopping on your own before you embark on a shopping trip.  The INTERNET is a great tool to do your price comparison.  You can go to to find out what is on hand, price, sales and just about anything you can think of.  After you have done that try another big box store in your area such as Target at  to see their offerings.  In fact most stores have large expanded websites that will amaze you as to content.  Many retailers both large and small have great websites.  Explore them all as they are very informative.

When a big box comes to town other merchants complain about unfair competition.  They all fear the giant and feel unable to fight back.  Many can't but some fight back and stay alive.  They do it by customer service, assistance and product education.  Many locally owned stores are more involved in the community be belonging to the local Chamber of Commerce, civic clubs and by sponsorship opportunities such as a youth baseball or basket ball team.  The big box stores fail miserably in this area. 

When shopping you will note that a majority of what we buy today is made overseas.  We complain about the products being sub-par and lacking economic value to our great country.  Well, part of the problem is that we have all fallen in love with the low price.  We are just not too interested in paying more than we have to for an item.  I am not talking about the trinket stuff I am talking about durable goods like appliances and other household goods including anything that is manufactured.  By taking this low cost path we have assisted in the loss of quality jobs.  Some of this I blame on the big box stores as they are always trying to drive down prices.  But the final blame rests on our own shoulders by wanting the low price all the time.

Big box stores can be your friend when it comes to savings but they are also an enemy of our local businesses.  The help offset this problem spend a little time looking around before you buy.  Check out the local retailer that belongs to the chamber, civic group and sponsor of youth and other organizations.  You may be surprised at how competitive they including stronger customer service.  Their slightly higher price may not be enough for you to go back to the big box store.  A prime example is an independent lumber yard in our area.  Their prices are a little higher but they deliver and will gladly pickup and replace materials that do not meet your standards.  Try to get that from one of the big box home improvement stores.  Another example occurred just yesterday.  I needed to rent a brush mower for cleaning up ATV trails.  I needed to actually use the mower for only 3 hours but had travel time which meant I had to rent  the unit for a whole day.  When I explained that to the department manager they said that I would only be charged for a half a day.  This was a locally owned store and I am sure that one of the big box stores would not have been that accommodating. I thank them for helping me out and their response was simple "We appreciate the business". 

In summary, shop around.  Weight your cost savings over benefits received.  Make your own decision but make it based on what is good for you and your community.  This may mean shopping at the big box with its hundreds of local employees or shopping at the small guys that give directly back to the community. 

The wonderful thing about our country is the decision is yours an no one can tell you what to do.  Think about that that next time you shop.