La Ronge Chamber Members Oppose Walmart Proposal

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 13:37



La Ronge and area businesses will not be supporting a bid to encourage Walmart to come to town.


At a La Ronge and District Chamber of Commerce meeting last night, members voted overwhelmingly against a proposal to seek community support for the retail giant to set up shop in the area, with a final vote tally of 11 to 1.


But one local entrepreneur thinks it may be short-sighted to think La Ronge can escape the “overbearing influence” of Walmart’s retail merchandising tactics, should the chain decide to move in.


However, fur buyer Darrell Barr says there are ways for local businesses to adapt to the altered retail environment, and actually take advantage of Walmart’s presence — as long as they don’t attempt to compete directly.


“The idea that Walmart only carries ‘made in China’ goods is not necessarily true — there’s a lot of ‘made in Canada’, a lot of ‘made in America’ products. Walmart will leverage — by lowering their costs of the North American-milled products with the higher margins they make on their Chinese products. So (it’s important) for people to recognize (that) if you’re going to run in competition or run together with a Walmart in your community, (the best strategy) is not to compete apples to apples, but you want to be apples to oranges,” he says.


Barr says it’s in Walmart’s corporate interests to ensure the survival of local businesses that complement theirs.


Meanwhile, Chamber president Bill Hogan, who was part of the business expansion committee researching the Walmart idea, says he’s heard a lot of arguments on both sides.


Hogan says some see only danger.


“Walmart has been known to undercut the competition big time, and I guess the worry is, are we going to be left with Walmart in a ghost town? And that seemed to be the majority argument going forward,” he says.


However, others see the presence of a Walmart as an opportunity to attract both northern consumers and other outside retailers who might otherwise bypass La Ronge.