States Target Big Box Retail

States are fighting back against the perceived threat of big box retail, according to the Wall Street Journal:

Maine Gov. John Baldacci last week signed into law a measure requiring developers of retail stores exceeding 75,000 square feet to conduct studies gauging the project’s impact on municipal services, the environment and local businesses. The proposed store can’t be approved if the studies find it is likely to cause a quantifiable, “undue adverse impact” on more than one of those fronts and is expected to have a harmful effect on the community overall.

The Maine legislation is the first state law of its kind in the U.S., but similar measures have been proposed in six other states in the past two years. A bill made it through the California State Legislature last year but was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
…”I am unable to support this bill that effectively sends a message to retailers and others that California is closed for business,” Gov. Schwarzenegger said in announcing the veto.

There is similiar legislation under consideration in New Jersey.

Are chain stores out of control? We know that in the city we grew up in most of the neighboring farm land has been paved and developed with every imaginable chain store, all in the last few years. The downtown is in pretty sad shape, comparatively. People shop where they want to shop, what can you do?

States Target Big-Box Stores [Wall Street Journal]
(Photo: Brave New Films)

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  1. Chicago7 says:

    How are they going judge impact on local business? That’s difficult. Most local businesses would say they have loyal customers because of their great service, but then they find out that it doesn’t mean a thing if you can get the same product at Wal-Mart for $5 less.

    If they let local business decide what the impact is, there won’t be ANY big box stores built.

  2. mopar_man says:

    If they let local business decide what the impact is, there won’t be ANY big box stores built.

    That’s fine by me.

    I’m wondering if these studies are going to be independent of the store ot if it’s going to be a company study. Either way, I’m sure the store can have numbers fudged in their favour. I doubt this will work but it would be nice if it did.

  3. B says:

    Well, it says “More than one of the fronts” so the proposed store would have to have a negative effect on municipal services or the environment. For the effect on services, I’m sure the stores could argue that property taxes would cover any effects. For the environment, that will be harder to get around.

  4. JustAGuy2 says:

    @mopar_man:

    Yes, because we should ban all the places that YOU don’t want to shop. Let us now submit to your omniscient judgment, bestowed upon us benighted souls.

    Arrogant much?

  5. SOhp101 says:

    Sounds like a weak attempt to make businesses justify themselves. Every company knows that if they fund a study (yes i’m talking to you, pharma) they can ‘magically’ get a favorable conclusion.

  6. mopar_man says:

    @JustAGuy2:

    Holy shit buddy. Unbunch your panties. I expressed an opinion. I guess we’re not allowed to do that because YOU said so? Get a life.

  7. etinterrapax says:

    Other parts of the country may perceive a greater need than we do, but I’m satisfied with the coverage of big-box stores around here. In fact, I was satisfied before they built that new Best Buy. If you’re not willing to drive 20 miles for it, it’s either not that great a deal, or you don’t really need it.

  8. Thrust says:
  9. grandaardvark says:

    I live in Austin, TX where Wal-Mart is currently attempting to put a store in the middle of town, at a defunct mall location. The site plan is effectively not allowed based on the city code, and the property owner, Lincoln Property, has filed false claims of traffic impact, but the spineless (paid off?) city council still approved the site plan. A lawsuit has just been launched against the city because of this. In effect, I think Big Box stores have enough money/power to get around any laws or bans that are put into place, which is part of what, to me, reinforces that they should be banned. When a corporation has the ability to ignore the laws and the local residents and enforce their will on anyone, they are too powerful.

  10. econobiker says:

    Big Box = Retail Strip Mining.

    The question to ask every big box store is not how much tax revenue the store raises but how much of each store’s actual profit is reinvested back into the community. That is the key question. A mom-pop operation reinvests a whole bunch more profit percentage wise than a multi-national corporation beholden quarterly results for Wall Street investors.

  11. Ahkum says:

    This isn’t anti-BigBox Retail, this is anti-Walmart (and anti-American imho.) Stores such as Best Buy rarely get over 60k sq ft, so this is completely aimed at Walmart and possibly warehouse discount stores (i.e. Costco).

  12. yahonza says:

    Or maybe the question to ask is not how much profit gets reinvested back into the community, but how many jobs are created, and most importantly, how much lower prices become.

    Of course, Mom and Pop reinvest their teensy tiny profits back into the community, so I guess its ok that they are otherwise slowing the local economy down.

  13. Televiper says:

    If the town prefers to have small business, and small vendors then they need to establish an environment that promotes them. The fact is we live in a suburban culture. People want easy access from the express way and a parking spot. The enjoy the illusion of selection believing it saves them time by not having to shop around. If a small town or city wants their downtown to be vibrant then they have to do more than simply protect the businesses that are already there.

  14. mac-phisto says:

    there are already plenty of big boxes in the metro areas of maine, but there is really no need for them in the backwoods. we’re talking about towns that have a population under 1000 for 3/4 of the year. aroostook county has a person for every 100 sq. miles or some ridiculously low figure like that. what the hell do you need 75,000 sq ft for when there’s less than 100 ppl within 50 miles in any direction?!?

    this is maine saying in a nice way, “‘nough!” & if the boxes don’t like it…well, that’s too bad. their legal wranglings may work elsewhere, but in maine, if you’re a foreigner (which generally means anyone who lives south of the pisquata river), they only ask nicely once. after that, you’d be wise to remember that 90% of maine is forested & 3/4 of that is considered true wilderness.

    i’d pay good money to see some of those texas lawyers try to find their way out of baxter.

  15. chili_dog says:

    So Wal-Mart = EVIL, what is Target, how about IKEA?

    Big box is relative to the person that likes the store. At what point to smaller box stores become a bigger problem because in AZ, the Walgreens stores as a whole have more total square footage then all the wal-marts.

    Besides, shopping mom-n-pop stores is a frigging annoying as hell experiance. Always talking it up, eying every purchase (Don;t judge my need for the 54 oz bottle of Astro-glide), lack of variety in products and most of all, dirty stores. Sure, I rarely go to Walmart, but I love the Target, big, clean and non-judgmental.

  16. Benny Gesserit says:

    It’s too early in the morning, I thought the headline for this article was “Target Sells Botox”.

  17. savvy says:

    I feel very fortunate that we don’t have any big box stores in my small town. Ikea, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, etc… I would protest each of them with equal fervor. I prefer my local hardware store… no huge parking lot to wrangle, a small store that has everything I need and it’s all easy to find, they let me bring my dog in, and they will let me run a tab for a weekend or two. Try getting that at Home Depot.

  18. andrewsmash says:

    This is something that annoys me on several levels, so I apologize if this gets a bit long.

    Some things that bug me about big box stores:
    * They operate under a pro-profit corporate model,which means profits go back to headquarters and shareholders as opposed to local re-investment (higher wages, benefits, improved facilities – older stores look terrible and the fix is to just build a new one)
    * Hogging of municipal resources – they take a lot of electricity, water, etc to run, but they just expect to jack into the local utility
    * Replacing the idea of a “good bargain” with “low prices” – they are not the same thing. Getting a low price on a good product is different than paying less for crap
    * They force themselves in – they will sue communities to build. Whatever happened to local rights?
    * Giant parking lots – ugh, just ugh.
    * They increase traffic without generating enough tax revenue to repair the damage.
    Basically, a majority of these stores act as parasites, leeching off the community – why do you think they have to reproduce so often? They stop making big profits fairly quickly. A good law to stop the sprawl would be to make them restore properties that they developed whenever they close store.

  19. @andrewsmash: “Giant parking lots – ugh, just ugh.”

    This was actually what caused the last place I lived to tighten up zoning codes w/r/t big boxes. Fudged environmental impact studies were horribly exposed when runoff from the supergiant parkinglots started causing residential flooding. That and the city tax revenues didn’t come CLOSE to projections and of course the traffic increase was much larger than projected, so the city was paying through the nose for the store.

    Some places are re-allowing gravel parking lots or asking big boxes to use those newfangled drainage pavers with holes in the middle so water can be drained IN instead of OFF.

  20. Chicago7 says:

    @mopar_man:

    NO TARGET?

    NO HOME DEPOT?

    NO COSTCO?

    I won’t shop Wal-Mart, because I think they are sleazy, union bashing bullies, but the others seem OK.

  21. Chicago7 says:

    Some things that bug me about big box stores:
    * They operate under a pro-profit corporate model,which means profits go back to headquarters and shareholders as opposed to local re-investment (higher wages, benefits, improved facilities – older stores look terrible and the fix is to just build a new one)

    That happens with all stores except your little “mom and pop” stores. You don’t want to be able to shop at ANY stores that have more than one location? You are going to pay a lot and get less choice.

    * Hogging of municipal resources – they take a lot of electricity, water, etc to run, but they just expect to jack into the local utility

    I would think the local utility would love a big customer – don’t know why the wouldn’t and it’s not like they are using tons of utility power – it’s a store, not a factory – lights, water in the washrooms and break areas, garbage?

    * Replacing the idea of a “good bargain” with “low prices” – they are not the same thing. Getting a low price on a good product is different than paying less for crap

    Well, nobody argue with that, except to say that I am buying the same products at Target that I am at the local grocery store, only it’s 33% less in price.

    * They force themselves in – they will sue communities to build. Whatever happened to local rights?

    Don’t let your town get pushed around – lots of towns have stopped big box retailers. Most of the time they DON’T get stopped because the people want the jobs and the deals, though.

    * Giant parking lots – ugh, just ugh.

    Vs. strip malls? I’d take the big parking lot over a bunch of strip malls – not everybody lives in Mayberry.

    * They increase traffic without generating enough tax revenue to repair the damage.
    Basically, a majority of these stores act as parasites, leeching off the community – why do you think they have to reproduce so often? They stop making big profits fairly quickly. A good law to stop the sprawl would be to make them restore properties that they developed whenever they close store.

    What damage are we talking about? Sprawl is usually caused by real estate developers with subdivisions, not a single store.

  22. nardo218 says:

    What’s this “perceived threat”? This blog has spent GIGABYTES telling us of the evils of Walmart. Stand your ground, man.

  23. mopar_man says:

    @Chicago7:

    I don’t mind Target and Costco. I can live without since I did before they arrived. Home Depot is just about as terrible as Wal-Mart.

  24. Tonguetied says:

    @grandaardvark:
    I’ve never understood the objection to putting Walmart in the mall there. By definition a Mall is built for consumer traffic. If it wasn’t a Walmart but was instead a thriving mall there would be just as much traffic! It’s only because the mall has failed is failing (other than the ice rink I suppose) that traffic is down so much. There’s plenty of parking and great access.

  25. Tonguetied says:

    The Home Depot here allows us to bring our dogs in…

    The thing that gets me about all this opposition to ‘big box stores’ is that if they were truely unpopular and truely bad for the consumer they would fail.