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An informal, stream-of-consciousness reflection on business ideas, events and issues in modern business, modern life and with some specifics to the web-software industry by Paul Tomori, Internet Entrepreneur

We Get The Retailers We Deserve
By Paul Tomori
Sunday, July 26, 2009 at 22:33:05 (EDT)

You know the saying: "you get the government you deserve"?

I think what they mean by that is if you're in a democracy, you get to vote or to champion one side over another. You may also conduct acts of civil disobedience, make pitches to government, etc....... and if you're not in a democracy, you still have a hand in who runs the country, though the price of fighting the government might be pretty high. At the end of the day, if you don't like the government, do something about it.

I think something similar exists in the world of retail.

It occurred to me recently that too many people complain about Wal-Mart and other big box stores that are squeezing the life out of the main street shop owners.

Those stores do not squeeze out the little guy so much as people simply stop buying from the little guy. People obviously favour "everyday low prices" that they can get from the likes of Wal-Mart. This forces the main street business operators to specialize more, to offer better service, to innovate better product groupings, to promote their wares to niche buyers, etc.

I am not saying that the big steam rolling retailers don't sometimes exercise some questionable strategies, though I think they mostly get beaten up unfairly by people who don't like big companies just because they are big. However, take Canadian Tire for example... this company came along and supplanted many many "main street" small businesses from hardware shops to service garages to electrical supply shops and others. Yet, now they are standing in the shadow of an even bigger giant, and they too now have to adapt or possibly die. I could be wrong and my opinion is based mostly on anecdotal evidence, but I think there is something to this. I recently went to Canadian Tire first to find something I was looking for. They didn't have it and I decided I was going to head over to Wal-Mart. Before I left, I counted the number of customers in Canadian Tire: 14. The number of open cash registers: 1. The number of customers at the checkout: 0. By comparison, at Wal-Mart, I could not easily count the customers... there were simply too many. I stopped counting at 60 and would estimate probably 80 in total. Open cash registers? 7. Customers at the cash registers? About 20 ! (with more heading to the checkouts as I looked).

I counted myself as one of their customers too. They had the item that Canadian Tire didn't have.

So, if Wal-Mart is the "evil empire", then why do so many people shop there?! Why don't they go elsewhere and pay more?! Why don't they go elsewhere and leave empty-handed for not finding what they were looking for?

Rhetorical questions to be sure. Conclusion: we get the retailers that we "vote" for with our buying dollars... and we get the retailers we deserve.

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