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6/24/2014

The Ellsworth community is right to be wary of Walmart's plans to enter the arena of small-town shopping traditionally populated by mom-and-pop grocers, pharmacists and locally owned hardware stores.

The Ellsworth community is right to be wary of Walmart's plans to enter the arena of small-town shopping traditionally populated by mom-and-pop grocers, pharmacists and locally owned hardware stores.

Last year, Walmart indicated part of its strategy for continued expansion would include building smaller Neighborhood or Express stores that could compete with local small-town retailers in places such as Ellsworth, Clearwater and Rose Hill.

The retailing giant has recognized there's untapped potential to capture the dollars shoppers spend daily on things such as medicine and groceries. And thanks to the nearly unlimited cash at Walmart's disposal, enormous purchasing power and ability and its strength as the world's top retailer, there's little local businesses can do to compete.

And though roughly 190 Ellsworth residents signed a petition asking the city council to try and stop Walmart's entry into Ellsworth, there seems to be little the city legally can do to stop the store from disrupting local merchants, as is the case in many other communities that would rather not live under the Walmart shadow.

That likely will leave Ellsworth only one workable option: Residents must vigilantly support their local retailers and continue to live and shop almost as if the Walmart never came to their community at all.

To do otherwise likely will doom these small businesses to closure. And when a town's local businesses fold up shop, the town is in for a struggle. Across Kansas, those rural towns with a local grocer, pharmacy, hardware store and other businesses thrive, while those whose Main Street is lined with empty businesses soon see its population shrink and its prospects dwindle.

Additionally, people should bear in mind that unlike those local stores, Walmart has little vested interest in the community; it simply sees a way to increase its ever-growing footprint. Sure, Walmart has a solid track record of charitable giving and philanthropic endeavors, but those efforts pale in comparison to those of shopkeepers who live, raise families and do business in their hometowns.

Moreover, small-town shops have something WalMart never can have -- a connection and commitment to its community, a genuine relationship with their customers, and a personality that adds to the community's vibrancy.

Editorial by the Hutchinson News

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