The News-Star, Monroe, La., on Wal-Mart
The News-Star, Monroe, La., on Wal-Mart:
There are few things most Americans can relate to more than groceries.
That's why former Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani seemed out of touch with the average American when he was off the mark after being asked about the cost of a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread during the 2007 campaign.
It was the same for President George H.W. Bush in 1992 when he expressed amazement at a grocery store price scanner, which wasn't exactly new technology at the time.
So it didn't surprise us that one of the most popular stories at thenewsstar.com last week was a report that Wal-Mart plans as many as four of its Neighborhood Market grocery stores for Ouachita Parish.
While many people claim to avoid Wal-Mart's Supercenter, the parking lots at the ones in Monroe and in West Monroe always seem to stay full.
Many have also blamed Wal-Mart for the decline of locally owned mom-and-pop stores and certainly the company's growth during the past four decades has transformed the retail landscape.
Wal-Mart, which didn't confirm its intentions for the story, is focusing its new growth on the smaller Neighborhood Market stores and the even smaller Wal-Mart Express stores.
They're certainly a threat to our locally-owned grocery store chains like Mac's Fresh Market and County Market, as well as chains like Brookshire's and Super 1.
Grocery stores aren't destination retailers like those at Pecanland Mall. People won't drive in from southern Arkansas or Ruston or the Delta to shop for groceries. The Ouachita Parish grocery market isn't going to grow, so Wal-Mart's stores, if successful, will certainly take business from the existing stores.
But we like the attitude of Reggy McDaniel, the owner of Mac's Fresh Markets, who just opened a new store in the Drew community and plans to build a new store in West Monroe even in the face of new competition from Wal-Mart.
McDaniel said he will continue to upgrade his existing stores to offer shoppers more choices and a better experience, and we're sure others will do the same.
"We'll be waiting on them, and we'll compete," McDaniel said.
When businesses have to compete for consumers' attention, it can lead to lower prices and more perks, even if it's just wider aisles, more varieties and fresher produce. They also have to compete for the best employees, which could lead to better pay and conditions for workers.
We suspect all of that will be the case when Wal-Mart builds its new stores in Monroe and West Monroe.
As McDaniel said, competition is the nature of capitalism.