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What Controversy Surrounds Building Big Box Stores?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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Big Box stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Home Depot, usually meet with a great deal of resistance when they plan to build in a community. Many people vehemently oppose Big Box stores entering their community. However, still others support Big Box stores despite the controversy.

Generally the argument for building Big Box stores is as follows: Big Box stores create jobs, generate sales tax, and can make available products that are hard to find. They also tend to offer lower prices than local merchants. Many argue that the building of a Big Box store can revitalize an area where few jobs are available and encourage the building of other commercial industries in areas where jobs are badly needed.

If a Big Box store opens in an area, many financial problems of that area are solved. People are offered work, and revenue from sales helps to fund projects for the welfare of the public. Roads might be improved, or more money might be available for the impoverished. An abandoned strip mall, which might be a central point for crime, can suddenly become a pretty area that people want to visit, all at the cost of the Big Box store.

Opponents of Big Box stores counter with the following arguments. Jobs created tend to be at minimum wage, meaning that they may not provide a living wage for people, especially those who badly need jobs and are impoverished. Some big box stores also specifically employ people at less than full time so they cannot qualify for health benefits.

Lower prices tend to mean that local businesses start losing money. Large retailers can afford to cut prices and sell some items below what other merchants would pay cost for. Many of their cost savings are the result of using manufacturers outside of the US, and higher demand for cheap products means reduction in numbers of American made products.

Newer businesses that might come into an area are frequently other Big Box stores or chain smaller stores, further undercutting local merchants. Thus the Big Box stores may provide jobs, but they do so at the cost of some people losing their jobs or businesses. New jobs that pay little, usually do little to help poor people.

Big Box stores may also cause money issues for the people of a community. Large storefronts may increase traffic on already congested roads. Merchants may want more police presence in their neighborhoods, which means more cost to the public. In the end, opponents, argue, Big Box stores cost more than they save.

This argument occurs repeatedly throughout the US and other countries as people fight over the issues involving Big Box stores. Some communities have allowed for the building of such stores when the stores agree to pay employees a set wage, or fund low cost housing for employees.

These clearly may satisfy those that argue for all being paid a living wage. However, it does not satisfy people who are concerned by the loss of local business or extra costs incurred by large stores. Both sides of the issue offer salient and defensible points, and it is likely the argument will continue as long as Big Box stores wish to enter new communities.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon67996 — On Feb 28, 2010

This article kind of brushes the true extent of the big box problem under the carpet. And I love that it's covered in Wal-Mart advertisements. Upon seeing those, this article instantly lost all credibility.

It kills me that so many jobs are being taken from the US so that the people here "don't have to pay as much" for goods. However, when as huge a part of the population is now unemployed, cheap goods don't mean much. With no money, it doesn't matter how cheap the goods are because your pockets are empty.

Why do people in the United States enjoy visiting other places, or places within the states such as Province Town or the beaches of Maine? Because they have their own local flavor, and a Wal-Mart or a Best Buy are hard to come by.

I don't know about you, but Chilli's, TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesdays, and 99 are all basically the same restaurant, and none of them are very good. Yet as I drive through my home state of CT, that's all there is. Bristol has now been completely taken over by 2 Stop and Shops, a Wal-Mart, all of the aforementioned restaurants, an LA Fitness, Price Chopper, and Stop Rite. And guess what? No one likes Bristol or ever goes there, especially not to work, and it looks exactly the same as any other city. Oh yeah, and unemployment and poverty are an increasing problem -- and the problem really skyrocketed when said big box corporations appeared, all around the same time.

By anon20461 — On Oct 31, 2008

Regarding the offshore products sold at the large box stores: They do but one thing: increasing our trade deficit as well as taking jobs away from the United States.

Just about everything one buys these days is made off shore. The global economy is the largest redistribution of wealth going on today as many here in the U.S. are victims.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen

Writer

With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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