Local independent businesses are increasingly being displaced by national chain stores that have become the dominant retailers of everything from books and office supplies to groceries, hardware, and coffee. As corporate businesses displace local merchants, America's towns are becoming marked by stark uniformity and lack of human scale.
Enriching our community
The shift from local ownership to absent corporate control also has dramatically altered the landscapes of daily community life. While local retailers traditionally have been an integral part of healthy neighborhoods and strong city centers, knitting together a variety of public land uses and providing a sense of distinct local identity, national chain stores often herald the demise of Main Street. They locate at the edge of town in massive, automobile-dependent, single-purpose shopping centers, as well as drive up lease rates in city centers because of their ability to pay more for space. An Iowa study of Wal-Mart Corporation indicated that when Wal-Mart entered communities, 84 percent of the corporation's business was taken from existing community businesses.
Guarding our interests
A community dependent upon absentee-owned chain stores also allows corporate retailers to make demands that local governments find hard to refuse, a practice that subverts local democratic processes in favor of private interests. This largely becomes manifest in the form of tax breaks or subsidies to corporate retailers as enticement to locate in the community.
Protecting our welfare
Many corporations also take advantage of their immense capital and multinational reach to escape public policies designed for human and environmental concerns through financial or physical flight to less "regulated" towns, states, or countries. As the corporations that own the chain stores further consolidate every consumer purchase, they muster the political power to control public policies at every level of government.