Driving by Zellers the other day I saw their store closing sign. It made me sad. In Thunder Bay we had three Zellers stores. They’ve been bought out or sold or traded or whatever it is that happens in the corporate world. What I know is that one of the locations is going to become a new Target and the other two are going to become Walmarts. We need two more Walmarts like we need a hole in the head. (sorry, a little over the top). But it’s true. We already have one giant Walmart, not to mention Canadian Tire (2), Home Depot, Future Shop, etc, etc… and it’s not like Thunder Bay is that big.
As I passed by the Zellers that’s closing, I felt sad because I am familiar with Zellers. It’s a store that has been in Canada since I was a kid. And, I have liked shopping there; it was what I was used to. But as I drove on, I quickly had another thought. I realized that, like many other stores, Zellers wasn’t Canadian-owned now. It had been sold in 2008 to a New York-based company, NRDC Equity Partners.
So, really, this new sale wasn’t anything so new. What was going to be new was the name on the door. Inside it would still be a foreign owned store selling goods made in some other country other than my own. At least NRDC Equity Partners kept the existing staff and respected the workers’ bargaining rights in Canada. It’s not looking like that will be the case given what Target announced about its take over: “…all Zellers employees – regardless of experience or years of service – will be fired and forced to reapply with everyone else if they want a job in their rebranded workplaces.” And, at “starting pay“. Who knows about Walmart?
It occurred to me that the big corporations in the world are so big now that they have budgets larger than many, many countries. They have for quite a long time.
To Walmart, Target and any of the big guys whose world is not within their original country’s borders any longer, do national borders really mean much? We speak this language or that one but increasingly we’re all wearing the same clothing, buying the same computers and cars, stereo devices. What’s different anymore? What can a country truly call it’s own?
What is Canadian anymore? Large stores like Walmart make it exceedingly impossible for small businesses to survive. Part of what contributes to a country’s culture and identity is all the small businesses that make each town unique. Now, walk into any mall and you could be anywhere on the North American continent! Maybe travel agencies should raise a stink because we are losing any need to travel! Just go to your local mall.
Diversity and choice?
I love the diversity of nationalities and ethnicities that comprise our world. Diversity, it would seem though, is not good for business. Mono-cropping, mono-culture and the commodification of everything is where we are headed. Or maybe we’ve already arrived?
Have we become an assembly line world? Are our nationalities becoming minor descriptors of what we really are which is consumers in the eyes of big business? Borders appear nearly meaningless to them. How about governments? What role do they really play?
In a world where we are told that we have so much choice, when you think about it, do we really? It’s going to be a bit more obvious now in Thunder Bay that we don’t, with Walmart signs where there were Zellers signs. While Target is a new name here, it’s still not Canadian.
So what do we do?
We support the local businesses that are Canadian. Or whatever they are depending on the country where you live. We especially should support our local businesses, the ones trying to hang in there and that give each of our communities some of their distinctive character.
Some of the many local and diverse businesses in Thunder Bay: Ostrom Outdoors, The Green House, Victoria’s Cupboard, The Kitchen Nook, Gratitude Gem Oils, The Urban Bird, Finnport, Northern Woman’s Bookstore, Squitti’s, The True North Community Co-operative, Joyce Seppala Designs, The Loop, Bare Organics, Boreal Edge Teas, Amos and Andes, Cinevate.
From high-tech filmmaker supplies to organic personal care products, books, clothing and more! Thunder Bay does have character despite Big Box!
What amazing local businesses do you have where you live? Please leave a comment below.
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