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Wal-Mart needs no more license-to-squeeze

Corydon was seduced by the Wal-Mart Supercenter formula as so many small towns had been before. Shoppers and associates wondered in awe at the diversity of inventory, enormity of square footage, everyday low prices, and ‘Buy American’ marketing scheme.
Opening day was a spectacle of excess at ‘Discount City.’ The entire management team was present, dressed in suits, every number was lit above the impressive row of 30 cash registers, and the sales floor was a sea of shoppers (and sightseers) interspersed with the blue vests and the smocks of a small army of sales associates.
This is the 10-year anniversary of Corydon’s Wal-Mart Supercenter, and soon the store will have to look no further than its own aisles to find a bottle of brandy with which to toast its success. And, in time, the rest of us will be able to look nowhere else.
Family-oriented, morally-sensitive, politically-correct Wal-Mart is seeking a license to allow sales of hard liquor at its Corydon Supercenter. It’s no subtle move from the point of view of Corydon’s two small, independent liquor stores. Wal-Mart is coming for their throats.
And their plight is a microcosm of Wal-Mart business strategy.
After all, what does Wal-Mart toast in the boardroom?
Maybe executives clang together discount glasses in a mock salute to the broken businesses that had the audacity to be counted among the ranks of Wal-Mart’s competitors, which include just about everybody.
Consider how many local businesses have been impacted by Wal-Mart’s arrival. And the outcome isn’t just a loss for the business owner. As businesses downsize or close, Wal-Mart’s percentage of the local job market grows, increasing the likelihood that those who lose their jobs will consider donning that blue vest.
Some may say, ‘That’s capitalism,’ but it’s not.
Capitalism requires that the government ensure fair competition, but through Wal-Mart’s adeptness in defying the Robinson-Patman Act, passed by Congress in 1936 as an antitrust measure, the retail superpower has managed to avoid playing by the rules, or so say a wide body of economists, attorneys and professors.
Wal-Mart will match any competitor’s price, but Wal-Mart won’t match its own prices. Offering inconsistent prices on the same product when sold at different stores throughout the state and nation allows Wal-Mart stores to undercut prices where competition is present and raise prices where it enjoys market dominance.
The chain superstore is designed to exploit every weakness of its independent counterparts as it drives toward a monopoly. And so for every Wal-Mart that opens, many other businesses close, and Corydon Holiday Liquors and First Capitol Liquors may be next.
The squeeze also extends to suppliers.
Wal-Mart does more business than Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Safeway and Kroger combined. Way more than $200 billion in sales each year. Wal-Mart may soon account for more than 50 percent of all retail sales.
Those numbers allow Wal-Mart to strongarm suppliers into unreasonable wholesale arrangements. Consider the gallon Vlasic pickle jar which Wal-Mart ordered to be sold at $2.97 despite the pickle company’s protest that they couldn’t afford it.
Wal-Mart threatened to do business with someone else, and Vlassic couldn’t afford that either. The jar was a huge hit. The volume gave Vlassic strong sales numbers and strong growth while profits plunged by 25 percent, according to ‘Fast Company’ magazine, a publication which targets movers and shakers in the corporate world.
Now Wal-Mart is looking to turn its unethical business practices to target a group that has enjoyed partial immunity in Corydon. It’s a small battle, but it’s one the community could win by showing up at the Harrison County Court House Thursday morning at 11 a.m. to protest Wal-Mart’s application for a liquor license.
There is no need for more liquor sales in Harrison County.
In Harrison County alone, 42 establishments sell beer or wine and 16 sell liquor. Within the town corporate limits, eight places sell liquor either by the drink or carryout or both. In town, there are 20 locations offering beer.
For the first time in Corydon, minors will be able to walk among shelves of hard liquor, raising questions about enforcement. Wal-Mart goes to great lengths to accomplish ‘loss-prevention,’ but it’s still a regular occurrence and huge source of lost profits.
The best protection liquor stores have against contributing to underage drinking is the fact that minors aren’t even allowed inside. That’s a protection Wal-Mart won’t have.
The ‘Buy American’ slogan has disappeared along with a slew of Corydon’s failed entrepreneurs. That row of 30 cash registers has become a mockery to shoppers waiting in long lines at the few that are open. The army of sales associates has become a skeleton crew.
Wal-Mart promises more, but ultimately delivers less.
A liquor license will give the store another opportunity, one it will exploit, to hurt local businesses. Someone, somewhere will benefit, but wherever they are, they’ve probably never even heard of Corydon, Ind.