Damage Of 'Big Box' Stores

Damage Of 'Big Box' Stores

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Throughout the past years there has been an enormous and ongoing conflict against the opening of "big box" superstores which are famous across America. "Big box" is the new term used to describe the massive rectangular one-floor building retail stores occupying between 90,000 and 200,000 square feet with an enormous parking lot that surrounds it. They are designed to accommodate a large number of products as well as a form of billboard that affectively attract customers. These stores are strangely loved and hated by the American citizens. Many absolutely love them because they provide individuals with good quality goods at low prices, efficient and convenient service, and it is often said that as these stores not only create many job opportunities to the suburbs, but they also greatly increase local tax revenues. "All customers appreciate good service, low pricing, and great selection," suggest Walt-Mart (Beaumont). Although it seems like the consequences of the presence of these stores are all positive, one must analyze closely the long run effects in order to realize that they may cause permanent damage to the communities. There are certainly many hidden costs brought by these big box stores in which "do not appear on the price tags of the products they sell: traffic congestion; loss of trees, open space and farmland; displaced small businesses; air and water pollution; dying downtowns with vacant buildings; abandoned shopping centers; a degraded sense of community; and sprawl." Therefore it is necessary to study the opportunity cost of building these stores in the suburban areas to decide if they are actually higher, making it a better choice to avoid them at least within a certain distance from residential spaces (Codey).

Are "Big Box" really Convenient?
Those who fight to keep big box stores argue that they are very convenient. They suggest that consumers may quickly do their shopping making only one stop where they can get much of what they need. It is true they can do the shopping all at one place, but in return they must be in traffic for much longer on a daily basis. The existence of these superstores lead to much congestion into communities; making those who live near by face traffic throughout all their regular activities. "Sometimes you come out of the lot and you have to wait two or three cycles to get through the light at Nimitz Highway," said Jonah Maehara, a sales representative for Koha Oriental Foods, "And they are very long cycles" (Leidemann).

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Therefore, the time that is saved in their quick shopping is not compensated since they are often stuck in traffic losing

More Jobs and Tax Revenues?
Big Box retailers state that they benefit society by creating more tax revenue for the state and more jobs decreasing unemployment rate. Although as studies are done and analyzed, they clearly show that in the long run they actually create tax deficits in many aspects. In order for a new commercial development such as big box stores it is necessary for local government to extend highways and utilities along with local services such as police and fire protection, and these costs have shown to be higher than the tax revenue received by these retailers. As a result of this, superstores actually bring a negative tax deficit while "small scale Main Street businesses, has a positive impact on pubic revenue," explains Tischler & Associates (Various). Andersonville Development Corporation also produced a study in which finds that "locally owned businesses generate 70 percent more local economic impact per square foot than chain stores". The study was done by examining ten locally owned businesses which were compared to ten national retail stores, both competing in the same category. It was found by the Civic Economics that since "chains funnel more of this revenue out of the local economy, the study concluded that, for every square foot of space occupied by a chain, the local economic impact is $105, compared to $179 for every square foot occupied by an independent business." Regarding the Job opportunities that they provide, it is true, that many jobs are created, but how good are these jobs? Statistic shows that many of the employees receive very low wage and are not able to pay for all their necessities. This results in more costs for the state which has to provide many with healthcare and other public assistance to big box employees. Furthermore, although it creates jobs, it also destroys many job opportunities since they relocate sales at existing smaller businesses, which must as a result must be economize or even go out of business.
Opportunity Cost
Job opportunities, Tax Revenue, Convenience, and Cheaper Prices are the four major augments in which superstore use in order to prove themselves beneficial and as we have seen that in the long run although tax revenues paid by retailer stores are high, they come with high costs as well. There are more jobs, but lower wage jobs. Although they may be convenient the cause traffic to all in the community. Furthermore there are other costs that they bring to society. Towns loose a community sense, since downtown and the Main Street stores must close due to high competition of price. "The destruction of America's downtowns has occurred all over the country as a direct result of mall development on the outskirts, and especially because of the construction there of mammoth stores." Also the bold white walls and no windows architecture of these superstores do not respect the architectural character of the local community. In addition, these gigantic buildings replace the green environment of many residential areas, greatly damaging the natural environment (Beaumont).
As a result to this analyses one can make the conclusion that the opportunity cost of "big boxes" nearby residential area is not the best alternative. Therefore in an attempt to reduce these problems legislation should pass a law restricting "big box" stores within 15 miles of residential areas.


1. Codey, Kathleen. Convenience and Lower but at What Cost? March 7 2005. October 18 2005. http://brooklaw.edu/students/journals/bjlp/jlp13i_codey.pdf.

2. Leidemann, Mike. Big Box retailers add jobs, traffic. Sept 13 2005.October 18, 2005. http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2005/Sep/13/ln/FP509130360.html

3. Beaumont, Constance; Tucker Leslie. Big Box Sprawl. October 18 2005. www.nationaltrust.org/issues/ smartgrowth/big_box_sprawl.pdf

4. Various. Big Box Economic Impact Studies. Various Dates. October 20 2005.
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