Any large company faces controversy, and Walmart, which would be larger than Norway if it were a country, has certainly faced its share. One of the areas that garners plenty of headlines is the effect Walmart has on communities. Reading some commentaries would lead you to believe that communities look like Disney’s Main Street USA before Walmart arrives, and quickly turn into post-apocalyptic wastelands once a Supercenter is built on the edge of town.
This is not true.
A new report from a town that resisted plans to build a Walmart store six years ago serves as a good case study on Walmart’s effects on communities.
Here’s what the people who fought against Walmart expected to see:
- destruction of natural beauty
- spoilage of the historic character of the town
- increased traffic problems
- the end of local businesses
The store now ranks #10 for customer satisfaction, out of 97 stores in the state. It also pays property taxes and collects sale tax not only from locals but also from people in neighboring towns, bringing additional revenue to the town where it’s located.
In fact, the additional shoppers coming into town to shop at Walmart shop at other local stores, too. If a customer asks for an item Walmart doesn’t sell, the associates are quick to recommend a local store where the item can be found.
City officials admit that they haven’t seen the crime and traffic problems they had expected. The store and its management have made a point of being good citizens in their new home, making significant donations to the area and working with the town’s business organizations.
Even those who fought against Walmart in the first place see the benefits. Their Walmart store was built with thoughtfulness and care for natural and historic assets of the county, and the efforts around bringing Walmart in helped open communication about planning for growth in the town. Now all sides are working together to keep those lines of communication open and to make positive plans for the future.
Walmart’s corporate website is clear on the goals each store sets for its community citizenship:
We believe it’s our responsibility, in partnership with our associates, to identify the challenges in each community where we operate and be a part of the solution. Perhaps Sam Walton said it best, “Each Walmart store should reflect the values of its customers and the vision they hold for their community.”