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View Poll Results: Do chain stores create "clone towns" ?

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  • Yes, definitely. We should protect small businesses

    2 16.67%
  • Yes, but that is inevitable...

    5 41.67%
  • No, chains are part of the modern economy and are convenient

    4 33.33%
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Thread: Do chain stores create "clone towns" ?

  1. #1
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    Do chain stores create "clone towns" ?

    BBC News : Think tank warns on 'clone towns'

    The proliferation of chain stores across the country is turning the UK into a series of "clone towns", a think tank has warned.
    Regeneration and planning decisions have created a retail infrastructure hostile to small, independent businesses, the NEF argued.

    As a result once distinctive towns are now losing their diversity, it added.
    In its report, "Clone Town Britain", the NEF argues that the homogenisation of High Streets is not a benign or inevitable product of "progress".
    ...
    Replacing locally owned outlets can also ruin the local economy as cash spent in big stores "drains out of the area to remote corporate headquarters", while local employment can suffer as the big names draft in workers from other areas.
    What do you think about this situation ? The Japanese have little concern about this problem as homogenity is well-perceived and even favoured. Chain stores, chain restaurants and convenience stores are the norm rather than the exception in Japan. However, European governments have been relunctant to allow the devlopement of such chains, and 24h/7days supermarket or combini are still prohibited in most of Europe, to protect small shop owners.

    Personally, I do not see the need to protect shops or any parts of the economy that are not viable. I am also in favour of convenience and do not mind an economy based on big, rather than small, companies. I therefore see chains positively, and find the concern about "clone towns" absurd. At the contrary, I would find it backward to have towns that do not have some famous chains. I have usually happy when I travel inside Europe and can find EasyEverything Internet Cafes in most big cities. Chains like Starbucks have already penetrated the British, German and Spanish market, but are virtually absent of other European countries. I think that the UK is the EU country with the most chains, esp. for bookshops, cafes and pharamacies.

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    This has been a problem here in the U.S. too. Personally, I like the convenience that so many chain stores provide; however, I also believe there need to be limits. For instance, here in the U.S., some chain stores go way overboard and build stores that are maybe two miles apart, and that's where things get really ridiculous. Talk about overkill. How many Wal-Mart stores do we need within a five-mile radius? Heaven forbid if someone should have to drive more than two miles to that particular store. So I think there needs to be some balance. There is certainly something to be said for the diversity, character, and uniqueness that small businesses bring, but I also appreciate the convenience that chain stores provide as well. Unfortunately, as explained in this article, the increase in urban sprawl brings with it its own set of problems:

    http://www.sprawl-busters.com/caseagainstsprawl.html


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    Although I'm definately in favour of protecting small businesses, I find myself shopping at chain stores for a better deal... but now I live in a small town with mostly small family owned stores. I'm going to try and support them as much as I can. I do miss my 24h Lawsons though...
    I guess I would choose "Yes, but that is inevitable... " I don't like it, but it's too hard to resisit.
    This subject reminds me of "You've got mail"...

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    Quote Originally Posted by nzueda
    Although I'm definately in favour of protecting small businesses, I find myself shopping at chain stores for a better deal... but now I live in a small town with mostly small family owned stores. I'm going to try and support them as much as I can. I do miss my 24h Lawsons though...
    I guess I would choose "Yes, but that is inevitable... " I don't like it, but it's too hard to resisit.
    This subject reminds me of "You've got mail"...
    I know what you mean. I love the convenience of the chain stores. I guess, for me, as long as there is one within reach, I'm satisfied. It's when they put about five of the same one within reach that I'm not! But if even one wasn't in reach, I'd be pretty depressed, I think. So that's why I posted earlier about there needing to be a balance.

    Boy, good call on the "You've Got Mail!" You are sooo right about that!! BTW, I loved that movie!!

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    Its not so much the small business owners that I'm worried about, its the destruction of whole neighborhoods that pisses me off. When I take a walk around some of the once-vibrant shopping areas near my house about half of the places are boarded up. Chain stores can be the ruin of not just small businesses, but entire town and city centres. Once a wall mart moves in, you can pretty much bet that the downtown retail district is going to be turned into a ghost town within a year.

    They are ugly as hell too. A shopping street with a diverse number of different businesses can be a pleasant place to take a stroll or something. A mall or box store is generally surrounded by a massive sea of asphalt and cars. The buildings are devoid of architectural ingenuity and you walk around bathed in flourescent light listening to muzak.

    Convenience store annoy me too. They are all identical, which wouldn't be bad if they looked OK, but they don't. There is a beautiful temple not far from my place that has recently had a family mart built next to it that totally ruined the ambiance of the place because now they have that goddamned sign on 24/7 and a massive blanket of asphalt surrounding it to make sure that the place remains completely barren of life. While they may be 'convenient' in certain occasions, they serve no other purpose. All of the products they sell can be purchased at supermarkets or other shops for a much cheaper price.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo

    Personally, I do not see the need to protect shops or any parts of the economy that are not viable. I am also in favour of convenience and do not mind an economy based on big, rather than small, companies. I therefore see chains positively, and find the concern about "clone towns" absurd. At the contrary, I would find it backward to have towns that do not have some famous chains. I have usually happy when I travel inside Europe and can find EasyEverything Internet Cafes in most big cities. Chains like Starbucks have already penetrated the British, German and Spanish market, but are virtually absent of other European countries. I think that the UK is the EU country with the most chains, esp. for bookshops, cafes and pharamacies.
    I disagree. I don't want Europe to become like America, with everything supa dupa size. Huge malls, huge movie theaters, huge supermarkets. If we have these things develop in small towns as well, than Europe will loose its cultural heritage. I would never want to see a Starbucks or a Walmart in the streets of small Italian rural cities, like in the suburbs of Perugia or in the country side of Bretange. Even worse, imagine these horrendous franchises in historic cities such as Rome, Paris, and Barcellona. That would defenetily ruin their appeal and would change that feeling of mystique and uniqueness that these cities radiate. I would hate to see such things in Brussels. They defenetily wouldn't fit with the paesage of the city. If they were to be located outside of the city, I wouldn't mind as much. Why go to a McDonald's when you can go to a small pita or kebab store in the Grand Place ? Fast food for fast food. But at least i won't eat some weirdly processed food that another 500 million people eat as well? Why go to starbucks and drink all those weird mocca frapucino stuff when you can sit quietly in a small street corner in a cosy European cafe enjoying yourself? I don't know how it is in Japan, but I think that Americanization has had a bit of a negative influence on their culture, like their high drinking age for example. Globalism is all good and well, but there should be a limit, and this is where i draw the line.

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    I completely agree with Duo there That's worth some Rep.
    We really need to prevent things from going overboard. I don't want anything here to become like America either.

    Thankfully I've not found a single one of this Starbucks crap anywhere near where I live, or anywhere else in Germany where I've been... are you sure they're also in Germany?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Duo
    I disagree. I don't want Europe to become like America, with everything supa dupa size. Huge malls, huge movie theaters, huge supermarkets.
    I was thinking more about small, or even tiny, chain stores like in Japan (combini, yoshinoya, hokka bento, excelsior cafe, etc.).

    If we have these things develop in small towns as well, than Europe will loose its cultural heritage.
    If ? You live in Belgium, right ? But aren't most cloth shops and supermarkets already chain stores there (clothes : Zara, Mango, C&A, Cricket&co, Etam.. ; supermarkets : Carrefour, Intermarche, etc.). The opposite of "Chain" is "privately own shop or restaurant", which means they do not have more than one shop/restaurant of the same name. The biggest difference between Europe and Japan/US is not about clothes, CD's (HMV, Virgin...) or even Supermarket chains, but about restaurants. There are hardly any chains in Europe, while Japan has chains for pasta/pizza, bakeries, ramen, sushi, gyudon/karee, mexican, bibimbap, izakaya and of course burgers. But that is a good thing. I wish there were some cheap Japanese food chains in Belgium (sushi, ramen, "nanka"-don, izakaya, etc.). In Japan, some of the best sushi-ya, Italian restaurants (Cappriciosa, Spaghetti-ya...) and bakeries (Kobe-ya, or the American "Vie de France") are chains. Some are small, and only have a few branches in only one city, but they are still chains.

    I would never want to see a Starbucks or a Walmart in the streets of small Italian rural cities, like in the suburbs of Perugia or in the country side of Bretange. Even worse, imagine these horrendous franchises in historic cities such as Rome, Paris, and Barcellona.
    Have you ever been to a Starbucks (considering that there aren't any in Belgium) ? They do not look ugly at all and the atmosphere would fit very well indeed in Italy or France (maybe better than anywhere else).
    Have you ever seen a big supermarket in the center of Florence or Rome ? I have lived in both cities and I know it isn't convenient to have to go shopping in the suburbs without a car. But there are small supermarket there anyway, which do not try hard to hide their ugliness either. Anyhow, I was not referring to supermarket, which are all chains (I have never seen any supermarket that was a family business with no link to a big company).
    In Belgium, there used to be lots of small village "groceries", which were expensive and didn't have much, but they were also owned by or related to chains (Delhaize, Sarma, Spar, GB, etc.).

    Quote Originally Posted by Lina Inverse
    Thankfully I've not found a single one of this Starbucks crap anywhere near where I live, or anywhere else in Germany where I've been... are you sure they're also in Germany?
    Not all the chains have to be American. I think that over 90% of existing chains in Europe are European (all supermarkets, department stores, clothes shops, etc.). The only few American ones are McDonald, KFC and Pizza Hut, and all fast-food. That is why I think most European have no idea what I am talking about. What about bookshops chains (like Japan's Kinokuniya, Maruzen or Sanseido; or the UK's Blackwell's, Blackwell's, Borders, Waterstones, WH Smith), what about chemist's shop chain (like the UK's Boots) or what about perfume and cosmetics chains (like Sephora, a French company which now have branches all over Europe and the US) ?

    Are you against all these things ? Isn't there any department stores chains (like Kauf), supermarket chains (like Spar, Aldi, Lidl or Tengelmann), clothes chains (including all designers and cheaper ones like Zara, Gap, etc.) where you live in Germany ? Would you be better off without them ? Do you prefer going back to the age of tailor shops and market places for the sake of "preserving traditions" ? Because that was my original question. The BBC's article complains more about bookshops and chemist's than having US fast-food chains invading small British towns.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lina Inverse
    Thankfully I've not found a single one of this Starbucks crap anywhere near where I live, or anywhere else in Germany where I've been... are you sure they're also in Germany?
    They are! Another similar chain has also entered the German market, don't remember the name, though. But similar look & feel (& similar prices).
    But for my taste too expensive (but, then again, to me all cafes are a bit too expensive).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    I was thinking more about small, or even tiny, chain stores like in Japan (combini, yoshinoya, hokka bento, excelsior cafe, etc.).
    Point taken, small chains are not a problem, in fact sometimes are a necessity.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    If ? You live in Belgium, right ? But aren't most cloth shops and supermarkets already chain stores there (clothes : Zara, Mango, C&A, Cricket&co, Etam.. ; supermarkets : Carrefour, Intermarche, etc.).
    You don't see a Zara, in like the four corners of the city though. There are key locations where the shopping for clothes is done. In the states though, you see Abercombie and Fitch, American Eagle, Tommy Hilfiger and etc, in every possible place you can. Every mall has one. Europe is quite different in that sense. Even if you go to City 2 and to the Woluwe Shopping Center, the 2 main malls in Brussels, you will not find the same exact stores in there, which is the case in the US.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    The opposite of "Chain" is "privately own shop or restaurant", which means they do not have more than one shop/restaurant of the same name.
    I see.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    The biggest difference between Europe and Japan/US is not about clothes, CD's (HMV, Virgin...) or even Supermarket chains, but about restaurants.
    I wouldn't want to dine in restaurant that's part of a chain. That makes it loose completely it's originality and local flavor. A restaurant by nature is locally owned and private, not part of a bigger structure. I would feel ripped off in any other case.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    There are hardly any chains in Europe, while Japan has chains for pasta/pizza, bakeries, ramen, sushi, gyudon/karee, mexican, bibimbap, izakaya and of course burgers. But that is a good thing.
    Food looses its appeal if it is mass produced, at least for me. However, some food chains are good and and still mantain their unique flavor, but they remain still small, and even when they are exported into a different country, their name changes, and they try to adapt to that culture, at least i noticed this about chains in europe that are in more than one country. I can think of Ola, the ice-cream chain, in Italy it is called Algida, and I think in other countries has a different name.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    I wish there were some cheap Japanese food chains in Belgium (sushi, ramen, "nanka"-don, izakaya, etc.). In Japan, some of the best sushi-ya, Italian restaurants (Cappriciosa, Spaghetti-ya...) and bakeries (Kobe-ya, or the American "Vie de France") are chains. Some are small, and only have a few branches in only one city, but they are still chains.
    I also would like to see those appear here , although I am only here temporarily, if that's the only way to get some Japanese food here then

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Have you ever been to a Starbucks (considering that there aren't any in Belgium) ? They do not look ugly at all and the atmosphere would fit very well indeed in Italy or France (maybe better than anywhere else).

    I have actually, on one of my trip to the states. I don't agree; when i think of cafe, i think of a small place, owned by a local, where local people go there to chat and gossip, and the coffee is brought to you in small european style cups, and not ordered at the counter and given to you in some McDonald type of drink style.


    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Have you ever seen a big supermarket in the center of Florence or Rome ? I have lived in both cities and I know it isn't convenient to have to go shopping in the suburbs without a car.
    I have lived in Rome. I'd say Standa is a pretty big supermarket, wouldn't you ? True it isn't convinient to shop in the suburbs, especially since in Europe not everyone has a car. Also, a point i want to make, chains in Europe like Standa, or GB in belgium, are not everywhere, in every european country. THis type of chains are good, but huge chains like Walmart, or K-mart or whatever are not good in my eyes, because they do make appear a city just like any other.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    But there are small supermarket there anyway, which do not try hard to hide their ugliness either. Anyhow, I was not referring to supermarket, which are all chains (I have never seen any supermarket that was a family business with no link to a big company).
    Some supermarkets blend in with the city's landscape. For example just close to my house a new Delheize was build inside an already existing building, and let me tell you that is not very noticable and looks very nice. If this was the States, they would have torn down that building and build some huge thing. This is what I am agaisnt.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    In Belgium, there used to be lots of small village "groceries", which were expensive and didn't have much, but they were also owned by or related to chains (Delhaize, Sarma, Spar, GB, etc.).

    I don't know much about that, but i can say that Delhaize and GB, although chains, are certainly acceptable. They don't even compare to the chains like Walmart and K-mart. Small-scale European chains are fine with me, is the new American phenonomenon of chains that I don't like. Even when Carrefour bought several of the GB supermarkets, they didn't change much of the configuration, they kept running things in the same way, and the arrangements in the supermarket didn't change much.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Duo
    You don't see a Zara, in like the four corners of the city though. There are key locations where the shopping for clothes is done. In the states though, you see Abercombie and Fitch, American Eagle, Tommy Hilfiger and etc, in every possible place you can. Every mall has one. Europe is quite different in that sense. Even if you go to City 2 and to the Woluwe Shopping Center, the 2 main malls in Brussels, you will not find the same exact stores in there, which is the case in the US.
    I understand your point. But that is just a problem of diversity or monopoly of a particular market. As long as there are plenty of chains of one kind, be it supermarket, cafes, shoes shops or Italian restaurants, then it's ok.

    I wouldn't want to dine in restaurant that's part of a chain. That makes it loose completely it's originality and local flavor. A restaurant by nature is locally owned and private, not part of a bigger structure. I would feel ripped off in any other case.
    ...
    Food looses its appeal if it is mass produced, at least for me.
    Chain food in Japan isn't often mass produced, except Yoshinoya or American fastfood. Small chains of Italian or sushi restaurants have very good chef and are particularily original, and often taste better than single restaurant. The reason is that they start with only one restaurant, then as they are getting more popular, they open a second, then a third restaurant (often in the same city and sometime with slightly different names), and teach the new chef how to cook the same way. These are good chains. Most famous ramen-ya in Japan have also become (small) chains.

    I have actually, on one of my trip to the states. I don't agree; when i think of cafe, i think of a small place, owned by a local, where local people go there to chat and gossip, and the coffee is brought to you in small european style cups, and not ordered at the counter and given to you in some McDonald type of drink style.
    That is probably more a matter of culture. Japan has Starbucks, Tully's (another US chain), and its own Doutor and Excelsior (actually the same company) and Veloce. These 5 cafes have branches everywhere in Tokyo, but they are convenient as you can just say to someone "let's meet at Doutor in Ginza or Starbucks in Shibuya". What is more, both the decoration and taste are better than in privately owned cafes, and people know what to expect. What is more annoying than entering a cafe without knowing how it is going to taste and how much it is going to cost. It's particularily good for business people.

    As for the size, some Starbuck are tiny (like the one in Nihombashi), others are huge (like in Shibuya). Some are quiet (not always the smaller ones, which tend to be crowded) and other are quiet (because they have 2 floors, or separate rooms, etc.). So it doesn't matter really.


    THis type of chains are good, but huge chains like Walmart, or K-mart or whatever are not good in my eyes, because they do make appear a city just like any other.



    If this was the States, they would have torn down that building and build some huge thing. This is what I am agaisnt.
    That is just a matter of legislation. In Europe, you can't tear down any historical building like that, and certainly not if they are listed (as national heritage, like most historical city centers), even if a company like Walmart buys the entire building and land. In Japan it doesn't matter as everything is new, ugly concrete.


    I don't know much about that, but i can say that Delhaize and GB, although chains, are certainly acceptable. They don't even compare to the chains like Walmart and K-mart. Small-scale European chains are fine with me, is the new American phenonomenon of chains that I don't like. Even when Carrefour bought several of the GB supermarkets, they didn't change much of the configuration, they kept running things in the same way, and the arrangements in the supermarket didn't change much.
    Carrefour is certainly as big as Walmart. So what you don't like is just American-style hyper-chains, not just the concept of chains, isn't it ?

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    Believe it or not, zoning has much to do with this. (At least in the US and Japan.) As far as I know, zoning laws favor small business in Japan and the reverse in America. My biggest problem is not with chain stores, but the way they're built in America. Typical scenario: Strip malls with mammoth parking lots parallel a to vast stretches of highway. What's the problem with this? Well, for starters, you need a car to get anywhere. This is what I hate about most suburbs in the US. You can't walk anywhere. Want a cup of coffee? Fine. Just get in your car and drive to the nearest sprawling abomination. Cars, cars, cars. On the contrary, I love living in the city for precisely the opposite. Need coffee? A nice greasy burrito? Go downstairs from your apartment and walk a block. Ta-da!

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    So, do clone-towns mean we should be worrying about clone people?

    and...
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Have you ever been to a Starbucks (considering that there aren't any in Belgium) ? They do not look ugly at all and the atmosphere would fit very well indeed in Italy or France (maybe better than anywhere else).
    Sorry, I just cannot let this one slide "...maybe better than anywhere else?"--blasphemy! There are places in Seattle where you will find five Starbuck's cafes on the same two block radius--and more often than not there is an SBC or Tully's across the street. Starbuck's will always look better in Seattle than in France or Italy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Carrefour is certainly as big as Walmart. So what you don't like is just American-style hyper-chains, not just the concept of chains, isn't it ?
    I guess that is my point .

    Nice deduction.

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    I would not use the phrase I prefer clone towns, but I would say that chain-stores are convenient for me as a consumer, and I prefer to shop in big shops because:

    -they are close-by.
    -convenient.


    However, I understand that for small shopowners, it is sad that big business are taking over.
    IN denmark there is a legislation which protects the small shops (to an extent), meaning that big shops can't have open on Sundays, giving small shops a chance on sundays....however, about the year 1995 the Danish government gave the American 24-hour convenience store "Seven Eleven" the opportunity to have open 24 hours every day of the week. (due to lobbyism)
    Since then, some big stores have been allowed to have open Sundays, but not 24 hours...
    This same legislation also protects bars and restaurants, meaning that you can't buy alcohol in stores in Denmark after 8pm, but only in bars, clubs, restaurants....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miss_apollo7
    I would not use the phrase I prefer clone towns, but I would say that chain-stores are convenient for me as a consumer, and I prefer to shop in big shops because:
    -they are close-by.
    -convenient.

    However, I understand that for small shopowners, it is sad that big business are taking over.
    Why are you talking about big shops and small shops ? This thread is about chain stores (companies) as opposed to individual (privately owned) ones, regardless of the size of each.


    IN denmark there is a legislation which protects the small shops (to an extent),
    Does that include convenience stores and small chain restaurants or take-aways from big companies ?

    meaning that big shops can't have open on Sundays
    Does that mean that department stores and supermarkets have to close on Sundays nationwide ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Why are you talking about big shops and small shops ? This thread is about chain stores (companies) as opposed to individual (privately owned) ones, regardless of the size of each.
    OKay, it was my language which confused you...I meant chain stores in a way that they represent big companies, chain-supermarkets, chain-department stores, etc.....
    NOrmally, the majority of chain-stores are big, that is why I said:
    "big stores" (from big companies)>< small stores (meaning privately owned, one-man shops)
    Hope you understand now.

    Does that include convenience stores and small chain restaurants or take-aways from big companies ?
    (regarding this legislation)
    NO! Only convenience stores and supermarkets (big ones, chain-stores) are affected by this legislation.(to protect the one-man small store, whether it is a supermarket etc..selling Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG)).

    Does that mean that department stores and supermarkets have to close on Sundays nationwide ?
    YES! In Denmark!! Only Seven-Eleven stores are open, and some stores during the summer are open due to tourists, and they are allowed to open because they use another legislation about tourism to Copenhagen.
    There are some supermarkets which are allowed to open on Sunday, but not 24 hours - their open-hours are controlled by some kind of table so that if the shops sells more than a XXX amount per day, it should close on Sundays, meaning if the profit is too large, then it can't have open...
    I know it is a confusing, and controlling legislation, but it was introduced by the government to protect small shop owners regarding FMCG.

    This of course has nothing to do with Starbucks, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and the like, (they are not controlled by this legislation).
    I only took one example; which were supermarkets, as they are chain stores mostly here in Denmark.

    I brought it up because it was a piece of relevant information;
    to build a big clone city in Copenhagen has restrictions, as small shop owners do get a chance here in Denmark, and some can continue their business, due to this legislation.
    Of course chain stores are here to stay, however, small shop-owners get a chance....which benefit them, instead of no legislation.

    I have nothing against "clone cities", or huge, chain-supermarkets everywhere, because as a comsumer, it is convenient for me...

    I Hope you understood the relevance now Maciamo....hehe, it was just an example.
    Last edited by Miss_apollo7; 30-08-04 at 22:39.

  18. #18
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    The size of a chain is very important in this kind of discussion. Generally speaking, the bigger the chain, the more destructive its impact. Wal Marts, because of their size and the diversity of their merchandise, have the ability to almost single handedly alter the fabric of an entire city by just opening a new location. That is something to be seriously concerned about.

    Starbucks size is also relevant. They have a very hostile and aggressive expansion strategy that they practice in each city they 'invade'. They basically saturate the market with Starbucks by opening 4 or 5 stores within a very small area. It is impossible to make a profit in this manner, but because of the companies size they can afford to take on enormous losses for however long it takes for them to drive all of the local cafes out of business. Even if the local places offer a better service for a more reasonable price, the sheer mass of Starbuck's presence will ensure that they draw away enough business to drive all the smaller shops under. Once that happens, they can shut down their unprofitable shops and dominate the market with those remaining. It is a disgusting practice and is one of the reasons I don't go to Starbucks.

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    Hey guys.. Think of this.. Those stores have little to do with selling products. The main reason is speculation on real estate.

    Go figure.. New town, industry is planted, there are also stores and food facilities built.
    Over the years the price of building ground in the area will rise.
    Cash in after 10-20 years.

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