Viva La Small Business!
Founded in 1962 by infamous Sam Walton, Wal-Mart has taken the retail industry and the world by storm, changing the face of discount retailing over the past 30-plus years. Based on 2006 revenue reports, the corporation is listed as the largest retailer across the globe and stands second as the largest corporation, only behind U.S.-based oil and gas giant Exxon Mobil.
Is bigger necessarily better? No. According to Shuman’s The Small-Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses are Beating the Global Competition, small, locally owned and operated businesses often perform better than larger competitors such as Wal-Mart, contrary to belief. Small-Marts, by Shuman’s definition, can be described as neighborhood mom-and-pop stores, often struggling against larger chains that draw customers in with the promise of heavy discounts, popular products and a 24-hour neon glow.
But there is a way to beat this and help local businesses grow increasingly competitive with national chains. Enter Shuman’s treatise: "What the Small-Mart Revolution is for is more important than what it’s against. The Small-Mart Revolution aims to improve the prosperity of every community, here and abroad, by maximizing opportunities for locally owned businesses."
Tempted by the Dark Side
Despite Shuman’s strong position against mega-stores eating away at the prosperity and soul of small businesses, he is not without flaw himself; in his introduction he tells the story of going into a nearby Wal-Mart to purchase an inexpensive pair of sneakers, and walking out several hours later with over $200 of merchandise. Shuman had fallen into the trap that many consumers fall into when entering a store that boasts such mega-discounts. "The biggest loss was this: I never expected to buy most of this stuff in the first place," Shuman laments. "I came to buy $15 sneakers, and wound up spending $275 on a half-dozen bags of junk."
When seeing an item marked down heavily, often one can’t help but think, "What a steal!" Indeed it is a steal - not necessarily for the consumer, but for the store that tricks the individual into purchasing more than what he or she originally intended to buy during a shopping trip.
Shuman sheds a light on the fact that price-slashing mega-stores don’t stop at dipping into the pockets of consumers, but into the coffers of the community as well. Despite the claims that national chains bring new jobs into communities, they also request hefty tax breaks and subsidies that hurt the community in the long term.
Shuman considers any sort of "support" given to big businesses to be "community lifting." If, instead, an individual made similar purchases at his or her locally owned businesses, the money spent would circulate within the local economy, increasing the community’s income, wealth and jobs.
Band of Brothers
Despite the argument put forth by big business that "there is no alternative" (TINA), the author instead provides a number of different strategies that consumers, communities and small businesses can use to fight back. For consumers, Shuman suggests 27 different ways to participate in localized spending, ranging from eating out locally and avoiding chain fast-food establishments to educating locally by supporting local public schools.
For investors, there is a list of 14 various ways to circumnavigate supporting big business that highlights the benefits of banking locally at neighborhood credit unions, as well as investing in local businesses as a shareholder or cooperative member. Shuman’s "Small-Mart Revolution Checklist" for entrepreneurs entails 12 strategies, and for community builders there is a list of five focusing on key ideas such as educating the community about the boons of buying local.
Shuman really zeroes in on policymakers, detailing 30 strategies in sub-categories such as local studies, purchasing, training, investing and public policy.
He presents policymakers with a daily mantra to guide them in their effort to support the Small-Mart Revolution: "Remove all public support, including anything that requires city staff time and energy from nonlocal business, and refocus it instead, laser-like, on local business."
Why We Like This Book
Shuman proves himself to be a reliable source for delivering the facts, as well as valid advice and suggestions for readers to help support the local businesses within their communities. Avoiding any unnecessary pontification, Shuman instead provides solid strategies for small businesses to use in order to compete in the mega-store infested retail market and overcome the TINA mentality. Shuman also makes it clear that he is taking on all big businesses and not singling out Wal-Mart.