Given the often debated economic impact of adding a Walmart, I hope that someone is making a study of these towns going forward.


Nobody's really thinking about this in the grand scheme. There was something in Fiscal Times recently about how the death of Walmarts was leading to a renaissance of small shops without talking about what to do with the giant dead husk of the Walmart, or the fact that an extant small shop is a lot easier to support than a new small shop is to establish. Meanwhile, Amazon is so hot'n'bothered to get its products to you NOW NOW NOW that they talked the Post Office into delivering on Sundays, but only for them.

To the best of my ability to determine, there is no corner of the United States that's immune from Prime 2-day. Amazon's own verbiage includes Puerto Rico and Alaska. I know that when I was in Eatonville, WA, I could get things just as quickly as when I was close enough to LAX to smell the jet fuel. I imagine the expense is substantially greater for bumblefuck USA than it is for LAX... which would be one reason why those Walmarts are dying. But for the average bulk shopper in rural America, Amazon Prime is a great Walmart replacement. And the jobs being lost are the shit ones - no one ever holds up a Walmart associate career as something admirable. Driving for Amazon sucks but I'm not sure it sucks harder than greeting for Walmart.

Really, Walmart and Amazon were both locked in a death struggle to eliminate competition by sucking all profit out of retail. Walmart did it by scaling up and slashing margins. Amazon did it by eliminating brick'n'mortar and slashing margins into the negative. Lo and behold: retail is dead.

And sure - there are probably lots of former Walmart shoppers that can't afford a Prime subscription. But let's talk about economic viability:

    Her husband once worked in the coal mines. Now the couple lives on what little they get from Medicare and Social Security, and with precious few other options she made the hour-and-a-half trip from her home back in the “hollers” once a month to stock up.

We are, after all, talking about a town that would already be dead because its sole source of income was a coal mine that dried up, held in a liminal zombie state by a retailer that had no long-term reason to open a store there.

I used to go off-roading in Questa, NM. Questa existed largely because of a molybdenum mine that was usually closed. In other words, most of the time Questa existed off of welfare. I spent the summer building electric cars in Jerome, AZ. Jerome ceased to exist in the '50s because the iron mine dried up. It wasn't until the Hells Angels moved in in the '70s that it became a town again. Towns live. Towns die. Yes, it's shittily ironic that Walmart killed their town centers to be profitable and now they have no viable reason for those centers to return... but if there isn't an organic reason for the town to exist, is it any more Walmart's fault than the mine?

posted by mk: 1170 days ago