Last week Wal-Mart dropped its plans (at least for the time being) to enter New York’s urban landscape after labor unions rallied ferociously against the mammoth retailer. While my ideological side relishes with pride over the news, I shamefully find my yuppie side still daydreaming about the giant Whole Foods being erected in my east village neighborhood and the access I’ll soon have to 24×7 fresh tuna steaks. Now Whole Foods is no Wal-Mart, notorious for poor employee practices and driving away local business, but it still is a giant retailer that will likely hurt local vendors. This made me think about Robert Spector’s new book, “Category Killers: The Retail Revolution and Its Impact on Consumer Culture,” which argues that the big-box epidemic has not only impacted business and retail, but deeper social factors like culture and migration.
As retailers like Whole Foods and Dunkin Donuts continue to pop up in what used to be considered chain-less neighborhoods, beyond mallification, how do you think its deeper culture will be impacted? Do you live in a community where you’ve seen values or cultural patterns shift as a result of big-box colonialism? How do we learn to co-exist?