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A Half-Century of Walmart. Economic Savior or Evil Empire?

In Business, Economy, Entertainment, Jobs, Local News, National News, Opinion, Politics, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on July 2, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Singer, songwriter Jessica Frech’s satirical music video, “People of Walmart” has attracted more than 6 million viewers, and probably offended just as many. (Jessica is in the upper left square of this screen shot from her video.)

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines

Most people don’t realize that Walmart is the world’s largest private employer. According to a recent article in Time magazine’s business section, only the U.S. Department of Defense andChina’s People’s Liberation Army employ more people than Sam Walton’s massive dynasty of discount. On July 2, Walmart turned the half-century mark of rolling back prices and shaking up the competition.

On that date in 1962, Sam opened the very first Walmart store inRogers,Arkansas. Fifty years and four-thousand, three-hundred-ninety-nine stores later, the chain employs more than 2.1 million people and sets the standard by which other budget retailers are measured.

Along with those who appreciate Walmart’s contributions toAmerica’s economy, there are equally as many who regard it as an evil, impersonal, corporate monster. And they may be correct, after all, it would have been impossible to become the discount retail leader without doing some damage to the competition and holding fast to as much of its own money as possible along the way to get there.

Impenetrable by unions and continually slammed by the liberal left, the bargain behemoth continues to rake in the cash, bringing in a whopping $443 billion last year. Revenue like that must please the company’s shareholders, who, ironically, are probably the last people to set foot in one of its stores (at least while someone’s looking).

But what is Walmart, really? Is it evil? Or, is this just the price that has to be paid for corporate efficiency and unprecedented business growth? Do small towns really dry up and blow away when Walmart moves in?

The pros and cons of Walmart are probably more a matter of perspective than fact. Walmart shoppers are hard to categorize, but the common image is the middle to lower class, interested in getting the lowest price possible on toilet paper while caring nothing about the environment in which it is sold to them.

Well if you believe singer, songwriter Jessica Frech’s point of view in her satirical YouTube music video, People of Walmart, shoppers simply cannot be categorized. They come in every shape, size, color and creed, from every socioeconomic background and lifestyle. They come at every hour of the day and night in search of, well, a great deal on whatever it is they need.

It’s worth mentioning also that many Wallyworlders found Jessica’s music video terrifically offensive because it uses actual photos of Walmart shoppers in their native habitat. Even so, People of Walmart has been watched by more than 6.1 million viewers. People of Walmart 2, released last November, already has more than 1.6 million views. Apparently people weren’t that offended.

The economic effects by Walmart on local communities are as mixed as its clientele, probably more so than people generally know. According to a 2009 study, most negatively affected by the big box giant are those mom-and-pop retailers selling products in direct competition, such as small, higher-priced grocery, clothing and dry-goods stores.

The research also indicated that retailers offering products and services not available from Walmart tend to do better if in close proximity because people are already prepared to spend the money.

As for Walmart’s overall effect on and property values, new research released by the National Bureau of Economic Research startled the company’s critics. A 2001-2006 study of 159 new Walmart stores found that homes within a half-mile of each actually increased in value as much as 3-percent. Local tax revenue also increases substantially.

Like it or not, Walmart is here to stay. Anytime a business or an individual is successful, they will always have critics and even enemies. Fifty years ago, it’s doubtful that Sam Walton could have imagined what his small shop would eventually become.

Today his company provides jobs, affordable food and clothing, and the most unusually diverse array of patrons any retailer could imagine. So, happy birthday Walmart! Keep the rollbacks coming and, please, could someone fix the wheel on that one shopping cart that just won’t roll when you’re in a hurry?

Welcome to The NEW Jamestown Comet

In Local News on March 1, 2010 at 8:19 pm

By Gery L. Deer

Editor / Publisher

Prototype web-based publication is a spinoff of its own history.

In 1876, just past the time of the town crier and way before MTV, Jamestown, Ohio residents were introduced to The Jamestown Journal, a four-page weekly newspaper printed by William S. Galvin, editor and publisher. The newspaper offered readers everything from local news to train schedules.

Galvin later changed the name of the paper to The Jamestown Comet, with the first verifiable issue featuring the updated masthead printed in July of 1890. The circulation of each of the paper was about 1,025 with an annual subscription cost of $1.50, in advance.

 Printed with the news were advertisements for everything from miracle tonics to glassware and from livery service (not limousines but horse boarding) to a performance of the Century Theater at the opera house. Though traveling entertainment graced the stage of opera houses in most towns, the Century Theater was the resident theater company in Jamestown and often posted advertisements for each show and parades that were held just before a performance.

 Keep in mind that one of the jobs of the Fourth Estate has always separate what seems important from what is and deliver that information to the public as quickly and clearly as possible. But what seems important in one era could seem somewhat silly later in time. Here is one of the actual news items exactly as it appeared in the Friday August 1, 1890 edition of The Jamestown Comet.

 NEW JASPER – Mr. William Lewis Levalley was thrown from a load of oats Monday and received severe injuries in the arm and limb and was also badly cut and bruised about the head. Dr. Cunningham reports him in bad condition.”

  Whatever the information, it was valuable to the people of the time, just as it is important to people today to have the latest update of the next rehab-stricken reality show star. Then again, I might like to see a good story about a guy thrown from a load of oats – it would be more interesting and less predictable.

 It is important to note also that there were no photos in The Jamestown Comet, nor most other papers of the time. Plates required to reproduce tin type photos or hand sketches were expensive and time-consuming. Local newspapers could simply not afford the equipment nor did they have the expertise to provide this kind of luxury. Editors and writers had to depend on their words to create the picture for the reader.

As larger newspapers such as the Xenia Daily Gazette and the Dayton Journal-Herald took a larger portion of the market, the days of the Comet were numbered. In 1899, Galvin sold the newspaper to the Press Publishing Company which changed the overall look of the publication and renamed it Greene County Press. The paper continued to be published until 1955 when it finally closed.

 Over all, a 79-year run for a newspaper is nothing to sneeze at, but all media has a shelf life. Today, as newspapers around the country plan more layoffs and cut back on circulation in an effort to stay afloat, it should be noted that newspapers are not dying, they are just changing. The big issue is whether or not publishers are willing to change with the times.

When the  Dayton Journal-Herald, a conservative morning paper, merged with its liberal afternoon competitor, the Dayton Daily News, in 1987 many readers were outraged. The merger came from necessity since there was simply not enough of a market in the Miami Valley for two mammoth newspapers. The choice in the changing economy was to merge, or both could go under. The decision seems to have been correct.

Twenty years later, publishers who find themselves in yet another economic transformation but are unwilling to change with the times might find themselves selling off their publications or closing them permanently. However, the solution is not as simple as making a move to an all-digital newspaper. There must be a way to make any news publication profitable amidst the flurry of instant news provided by behemoths like CNN.

Quality content is paramount and smaller publications are focusing on more locally-based content and providers and free access to the online version. Whatever the solution, the changes in the newspaper business are going to continue for some time.

 As an independent publication the staff of The NEW Jamestown Comet would like to thank you, the readers and advertisers, for having a look at this revitalized publication. From a 19th Century weekly newspaper to an online news resource for the Jamestown, Ohio region, The Jamestown Comet will grow and expand thanks to you – the reader. For information, contact editor@jamestowncomet.com.