Is Wal-Mart a Boon or a Bust for Small Firms?

The scuttlebutt is that when Wal-Mart moves into a neighborhood, bye-bye local retailers. But a story in today's Washington Post reveals that smaller firms say it's business as usual since Wal-Mart moved into their Landover Hills, Md., neighborhood a year ago.

For example, a local pharmacist said he was braced for a legion of defections to Wal-Mart, but his clients have not strayed since the Bentonville, Ark., behemoth opened up shop down the street.

The article notes that no comprehensive study has been done on Wal-Mart's impact on the stretch of Annapolis Road, the heart of a redeveloping neighborhood in Prince George's County. But local proprietors and community leaders say that fears of an exodus of local businesses have not panned out. Some say the dour economy is a bigger threat than Wal-Mart, while other store owners credit Wal-Mart with boosting their sales, through both its proximity and community outreach programs.

Wal-Mart designated Chicago and Landover Hills as two of 10 "jobs and opportunity zones" designed to spur economic development around its urban stores and help small businesses. When it launched the program two years ago, Wal-Mart said it would offer free advertising to local stores and seminars on how to do business and compete with Wal-Mart. It also promised grants to local chambers of commerce. The program is designed to last two years in each community.

Small Business Readers - Has Wal-Mart made an impact on small businesses in your neighborhood in a positive or negative way?

By Sharon McLoone |  June 23, 2008; 1:18 PM ET
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