A Downward Push: The Impact of Wal-Mart Stores on Retail Wages and Benefits – By Arindrajit Dube, T. William Lester, and Barry Eidlin, UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, December 2007
This study analyzes the impact of the opening of Wal-Mart stores on the earnings of retail workers. (It uses a similar technique to account for possible biases in Wal-Mart’s store location decisions as the study described in the RETAIL EMPLOYMENT section above, "The Effects of Wal-Mart on Local Labor Markets.”) This study focuses on stores that opened between 1992 and 2000 and concludes, "Opening a single Wal-Mart store lowers the average retail wage in the surrounding county between 0.5 and 0.9 percent.” Not only did Wal-Mart lower average wage rates, but "every new Wal-Mart in a county reduced the combined or aggregate earnings of retail workers by around 1.5 percent.” Because this number is higher than the reduction in average wages, it indicates that Wal-Mart not only lowered pay rates, but also reduced the total number of retail jobs. The study goes on to look at the cumulative impact of Wal-Mart store openings on retail earnings at the state level and nationwide. "At the national level, our study concludes that in 2000, total earnings of retail workers nationwide were reduced by $4.5 billion due to Wal-Mart’s presence,” the researchers find. Most of these losses were concentrated in metropolitan areas. Although Wal-Mart is often associated with rural areas, three-quarters of the stores it built in the 1990s were in metropolitan counties.
9. SUBSIDIES These studies document the massive public subsidies that have financed the expansion of big-box stores and how this subsidized development has failed to produce real economic benefits for communities.
An Assessment of the Effectiveness and Fiscal Impacts of the Use of Local Development Incentives in the St. Louis Region By East-West Gateway Council of Governments; January 2011
This study finds that over the last 20 years local governments in the metropolitan St. Louis region have diverted more than $5.8 billion in public tax dollars to subsidize private development. About 80 percent of these subsidies supported the construction of big-box stores and shopping malls, mostly in affluent suburbs. Despite this large public expenditure, the region has seen virtually no economic growth. "The number of retail jobs has increased only slightly and, in real dollars, retail sales or per capita have not increased in years,” the authors conclude. The subsidies have almost exclusively benefitted large chains, the study finds, and the region’s retail sector has grown increasingly concentrated. More than 600 small retailers (under 10 employees) have closed in the last ten years. "Both municipal finance and quality of life suffer when a city loses its base of small retail establishments,” the study notes. While some municipalities have seen gains in revenue as a result of luring retail development, these gains have come entirely at the expense of neighboring municipalities. Today, most of the region’s local governments are in financial trouble. "A significant number of municipalities faced budget deficits, lay-offs and service cuts between 2000 and 2007, even though that was a period of time when the economy had generally fared well,” the study finds.
12. CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS Small businesses donate about twice as much per employee to charitable organizations as large businesses, according to this study.
Business Contributions to Community Service – by Patricia Frishkoff, Small Business Administration, 1991
In 1991, Dr. Patricia Frishkoff, Director of the Family Business Program at Oregon State University, completed this study of charitable giving by 182 businesses in four communities. She combined cash donations with the value of in-kind contributions and found that the small businesses were more generous. Companies with fewer than 100 employees gave an average of $789 per employee, compared to $334 per employee at firms with more than 500 employees.
Competing with the Discount Mass Merchandisers – By Dr. Kenneth Stone, Iowa State University, 1995
The basic premise of this study and others by Ken Stone is that the retail "pie” is relatively fixed in size (it grows only incrementally as population and incomes grow). Consequently, when a company like Wal-Mart opens a giant store, it invariably captures a substantial slice of the retail pie, leaving smaller portions for existing businesses, which are then forced to downsize or close. This study of Wal-Mart’s impact on Iowa towns found that the average superstore cost other merchants in the host town about $12 million a year in sales (as of 1995), while stores in smaller towns nearby also suffered substantial revenue losses. These sales losses resulted in the closure of 7,326 Iowa businesses between 1983 and 1993, including 555 grocery stores, 291 apparel stores, and 298 hardware stores. While towns that gained a Wal-Mart store initially experienced a rise in overall retail sales, after the first two or three years, retail sales began to decline. About one in four towns ending up with a lower level of retail activity than they had prior to Wal-Mart’s arrival. Stone attributes this to Wal-Mart’s strategy of saturating regions with multiple stores.
St. Albans, Vermont State Environmental Board Act 250 Decision, 1994
A cost/benefit analysis of a proposed Wal-Mart store in St. Albans, Vermont, found that the store would cause dozens of existing businesses to close, leading to a net loss of 110,000 square feet of retail space. The 214 jobs created by the new superstore would be offset by the loss of 381 jobs at other businesses. The analysis also found that the overall tax losses expected from the small business failures would be greater than the tax revenue generated by the new Wal-Mart. Moreover, the city would incur a variety of new costs to provide roads, sewers, police, and fire protection to service the sprawling new development. The analysis concluded that for every dollar in tax benefit created by the superstore, there would be 2.5 dollars in tax losses and public costs.
3. WAGES & BENEFITS Studies have found that big-box retailers, particularly Wal-Mart, are depressing wages and benefits for retail employees, and that median incomes have risen faster in places with more small businesses compared to those dominated by big businesses.
Does Local Firm Ownership Matter? — by Stephan Goetz and David Fleming, Economic Development Quarterly, April 2011.
Goetz and Fleming analyze 2,953 counties, including both rural and urban places, and find that, after controlling for other factors that influence growth, those with a larger density of small, locally owned businesses experienced greater per capita income growth between 2000 and 2007. The presence of large, non-local businesses, meanwhile, had a negative effect on incomes.
Economic Impact Analysis: A Case Study – by Civic Economics, December 2002.
This study examines the local economic impact of two locally owned businesses in Austin, Texas—Waterloo Records and Book People—and compares this with the economic return the community would receive from a Borders Books store. The study finds that spending $100 at Borders creates $13 worth of local economic activity, while spending $100 at the local stores generates $45 in local economic activity. The difference is attributed to three factors: a higher local payroll at the independent stores (because, unlike Borders, none of their operations are carried out a an out-of-town headquarters office); the local stores purchased more goods and services locally; and the local stores retained a much larger share of their profits within the local economy.
1. The following studies have found that locally owned stores generate much greater benefits for the local economy than national chains do.
Independent BC: Small Business and the British Columbia Economy — by Civic Economics, February 2013
Commissioned by the British Columbia division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, this study analyzes the market share and economic impact of the province’s independent retailers and restaurants. It finds that BC’s independent retailers captured just over half of all retail sales as recently as 2003, but have since lost ground. By 2010, independents accounted for 45 percent of BC’s overall retail sales and only 34 percent of the market with automobile and gasoline sales excluded. Although BC has a reputation for innovative planning initiatives, on this measure it lags the rest of Canada, where independents account for 42 percent of retail spending. Among restaurants, BC’s independent sector accounts for 72 percent of full-service dining and 19 percent of limited-service dining. With regard to economic impact, the study finds that, for every $1,000,000 in sales, independent retail stores generate $450,000 in local economic activity, compared to just $170,000 for chains. Among restaurants, the figures are $650,000 for independents and $300,000 for chains. Across both sectors, this translates into about 2.6 times as many local jobs created when spending is directed to independent businesses instead of chains. The study concludes that a shift of just 10 percent of the market from chains to independents would produce 31,000 jobs paying $940 million in annual wages to BC workers.
8. STATE COSTS Because many of their employees do not earn enough to make ends meet, states are reporting high costs for providing healthcare (Medicaid) and other public assistance to big-box employees.
In addition to the following studies, see Good Jobs First’s web page detailing states that have disclosed how much they are spending on providing health insurance for employees of Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Target, and other big-box retailers.
Employers Who Had Fifty or More Employees Using MassHealth, Commonwealth Care, or the Health Safety Net in State Fiscal Year 2010 — by Commonwealth of Massachusetts, February 2013.
This report from the state of Massachusetts discloses the 50 companies that have the most employees enrolled in the state’s Medicaid and other publicly funded health insurance programs for low-income people. About half of the 50 companies identified are retail and restaurant chains. Walmart ranks third overall, with 4,327 employees, approximately one-fifth of its Massachusetts workforce, relying on state health care assistance at a cost to taxpayers of $14.6 million per year. Target ranks fourth with 2,610 employees enrolled, approximately 36 percent of its Massachusetts workforce, at a cost of $8.3 million per year. Other retailers on the list include CVS, Shaw’s, Home Depot, May Department Stores, Sears, Kohl’s, Walgreen, Lowe’s, Best Buy, and Whole Foods.
Business Churn and the Retail Giant: Establishment Birth and Death from Wal-Mart’s Entry — by Carlena Cochi Ficano, Social Science Quarterly, 2012.
Within 15 months of a new Walmart store opening, between 4.4 and 14.2 existing retail establishments close, while at most 3.5 new retail establishments open, according to this study. The study’s methodology accounts for Walmart’s expansion strategy and controls for a variety of other economic and demographic factors likely to influence the birth or death of businesses. The author notes that, while the findings on store closures are robust, those on new store openings are not and should be interpreted cautiously. Also, the study only accounts for Walmart’s effect on businesses that have at least one employee and does not track the impact after the first 15 months. The results explain the seeming discrepancy in other studies finding that Walmart has a relatively modest effect on retail employment, but causes a substantial increase in poverty rates. This study suggests that Walmart triggers significant churn in the local labor market, with large numbers of people laid off, facing periods of unemployment followed by new jobs that may be only part-time or lower paying.
Local Works: Examining the Impact of Local Business on the West Michigan Economy – by Civic Economics, September 2008
This study concludes that if residents of Grand Rapids and surrounding Kent County, Michigan, were to redirect 10 percent of their total spending from chains to locally owned businesses, the result would be $140 million in new economic activity for the region, including 1,600 new jobs and $53 million in additional payroll. The study calculates the market share of independent businesses in four categories: pharmacy (41%), grocery (52%), restaurants (50%), and banks (6%). It analyzes how much of the money spent at these businesses stays in the area compared to national chains. Local restaurants, for example, return more than 56% of their revenue to the local economy in the form of wages, goods and services purchased locally, profits, and donations. Chain restaurants return only 37%. Measuring the total economic impact of this difference, including indirect and induced activity, the study estimates that $1 million spent at chain restaurants produces about $600,000 in additional local economic activity and supports 10 jobs. Spending $1 million at local restaurants, meanwhile, generates over $900,000 in added local economic activity and supports 15 jobs. The study also analyzes the economic impact of independent vs. chain businesses on a square footage basis, noting, "In a largely built-out city like Grand Rapids, policy dictates seeking the highest and best use of available properties, and this analysis strongly supports the idea that local firms should be the preferred tenants for city sites.”