Big business is coming to town. I am referring to the shiny new Builders Warehouse that have opened up next to the Garden Route Mall, as well as all the other big box retailers scheduled to join it in the coming year or two. It opened with much fanfare and publicity, but like a tsunami, it will leave a trail of destruction in its wake.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been there several times already and have made repeat purchases. The human psychology is such that the logic of comparing prices goes out the window when confronted by an array of shiny new products on display, all under one roof.
I am sure there are now great bargains to be had at all the local hardware stores in town, but will the consumers care? Is it too little, too late? I have had to hang around to have keys cut at Key & Lock, waited for paint to be mixed at Classic Paints, waited patiently for someone to hunt down an elusive bolt in the back store of H&L, but now I can do it all myself at the shiny new store at the mall.
All that glitters is not gold however. We get this new convenience at a significant cost. The price we pay is one thing, but the destruction of long running local business is quite another. It seems inevitable that a number of small niche suppliers of hardware and related services will have to close their doors, with the inevitable job losses that follow.
Do we call this progress? Is it survival of the fittest? When Mass-Mart and the others truly come to town, we will see the second phase of destruction, as the last line of small independent stores will have to kneel before the big giants.
Can we do anything to turn the tide? I am in two minds about this. Yes, we want progress and we want access to a huge choice of shiny products, but we want it without changing the way we live or how our town operates. We want to live in a small town by the sea, but with big town shops and services. Somewhere something has to give way.