Welcome Mat for Wal-Mart

| April 8, 2002 Issue

W al-Mart intends to "dominate North America, then South America, then Europe and Asia," according to its chairman David Glass. And with its empire of 200 outlets in Canada, 533 in Mexico, and well over 3,000 in the U.S. (at last count) the retail giant is rapidly fulfilling that aim.

But as Sarah Cox writes in Rabble, a progressive online magazine, what isn't so obvious is how Wal-Mart's expansion strategies trample the development plans of many of the communities it targets. Specifically, Cox focuses on Vancouver, BC, the only major Canadian city without a Wal-Mart. Even with Wal-Mart's PR team assuring the media that their stores don't put other small stores out of business, an active resistance of local communities aims to prevent the invasion at any cost.

"A vociferous coalition called Building Better Neighbourhoods is campaigning to oppose your [Wal-Mart's] rezoning application," Cox writes. "Your store 'would divert nearly $13 million in retail sales from local merchants and put an estimated 75 to 150 local stores out of business,' according to a petition circulated by the coalition."

And with a little help from the WTO's Free Trade of the Americas policy, as well as Wal-Mart's own powerful influence as an advisor on trade policy for the U.S. government, the company just might vanquish community dissent. Cox digs into Wal-Mart's past squabbles with community organizations that have stood in the way of the company's expansion, and explains just how gargantuan Wal-Mart is becoming--both economically and as a presence in cities--and the ways it threatens to subjugate a community's collective actions against it.
--Julie Madsen
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