Article first published as The Effect of Big Box Stores on Retail on Technorati.
Borders book stores have announced that they are going out of business. Best Buy has decided to reduce the size of their buildings. Both claim that other businesses and the internet have dramatically curtailed sales. The economic downturn has also played a significant role in their demise. What many big box retailers seem to have forgotten is that they did exactly the same to thousands of independent business owners years ago.
I remember when Home Depot was opening in the small cities and suburbs. The immediate concern was that they would put all the small hardware stores out of business. They were told not to worry. That competition would improve business for all, and that what they carried would not affect the small stores. In a matter of a few years, all the independent hardware stores in the area where out of business. They could not compete with inventory, price, and store hours.
Large stores and malls also had an effect on the downtown areas of many towns and cities. It became more convenient to drive to large stores rather that walk up and down a street to shop. Small clothing, book, toy, video, and drug stores slowly disappeared from the landscape. Instead the country has become more and more generic in retail choices.
The loss of these large stores has left a void in many cities and towns. Huge buildings sit vacant for years with signs advertising leasing opportunities. Given the current economic climate, the small store owner cannot start up a business as easily before retail was dominated by big business. The small store knew their customers, employed a steady group of workers, and provided a level of service that went unmatched.
The public is upset to see the demise of Borders. There is a feeling that literacy in America has suffered a blow. There may some truth in the sentiment, but wouldn’t it be nice if small stores could make a comeback. It would improve the economy and the retail experience many of us miss.