This report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (an organization doing more than any other, I think, to highlight where and how people can be working for the localism we like to talk about) highlights how dollar stores deliver low-quality goods at higher prices, parasitically feeding off some of the most vulnerable places:
“Essentially what the dollar stores are betting on in a large way is that we are going to have a permanent underclass in America,” Garrick Brown, a researcher with the commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, told Bloomberg last year.
Alongside urban black neighborhoods, another place the dollar chains think they will find enduring poverty is rural America. Small towns have been battered by corporate consolidation. Mergers have triggered plant closures. Agribusiness giants have slashed farmers’ incomes. As a result, rural communities have experienced little in the way of new business and job growth during the current economic recovery, new data show.
This follows two decades in which Walmart’s super-charged growth left small-town retail in shambles. By building massive, oversized supercenters in larger towns, Walmart found it could attract customers from a wide radius. Smaller towns in the vicinity often suffered the brunt of its impact as their Main Street retailers weakened and, in many cases, closed.
Today the dollar chains are capitalizing on these conditions, much like an invasive species advancing on a compromised ecosystem.
Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org