As the largest retailer in history, it’s no surprise that Walmart is the target of both vicious attacks and effusive praise. According to its own website, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. operates more than 8,000 stores, employs more than 2.1 million people, and sells more than $400 billion worth of goods in every year. Though this bulk intimidates those who fear for the viability of “mom and pop” retailers, Walmart’s great strength is that it devotes its considerable power to American consumers. Its size enables it to provide services that other retailers cannot, and it has deservedly become an integral part of the modern American economy.
Criticisms of Walmart’s effect on small retailers fall flat because of Americans’ role in that effect. Consumption is the only democratic component of the corporate world: small retailers fail because Americans choose Walmart. Walmart provides cheaper, better, more accessible services than its competition. While competing stores’ closings produce touching hard-luck stories, the shift to Walmart is beneficial for society, because Walmart is much more efficient at every stage of its business. The benefits of this efficiency are less personal and more broadly spread than the costs to smaller competitors, but such dissemination of value demonstrates one of the best qualities of Walmart – its egalitarianism. Walmart provides a good that is accessible to virtually all Americans. The 2006 book The Walmart Effect estimates that 97% of Americans live within twenty-five miles of a Walmart, and Walmart’s low prices assure that the store is also economically accessible. As long as consumers continue to choose Walmart (for understandable reasons), the onus is on small retailers to find better ways to compete.
The second main argument against Walmart deals with its impact on suppliers. Because Walmart has such immense buying power, it carries great