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Thread: Moratorium on big-box stores in NZ?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    Moratorium on big-box stores in NZ?

    This sounds like a good idea. But they haven't specified how the effects on small towns will be measured.

    16 January 2003

    GOVT URGED TO HALT `BIG BOX' RETAILING

    Hastings, Jan 16 - The Government must place a moratorium on ``big-box'' retail developments to prevent more damage to small businesses in centres such as Napier and Hastings, according to environmental planning group Envision New Zealand.

    The group was set up last year to help communities understand the impact of mega stores and big-box retailing.

    Envision NZ spokesman Warren Snow, who spoke in Napier recently, has written to Prime Minister Helen Clark and key Cabinet members, calling for a moratorium and a multi-party seminar.

    Mr Snow said New Zealand needs to halt construction of big-box and mega retail stores until their effects on town centres and communities in New Zealand has been measured. He visited 10 New Zealand towns and cities late last year, including Hawke's Bay, and met groups fighting the construction of mega retail developments in their communities.

    ``I feel there is huge concern at the impact on local economies and community values through these stores and centres killing town centres and small retailers and businesses.

    ``Other countries like Norway, Thailand and the UK are starting to impose limits on big-box retail. It's a worldwide issue that's hot right now. Poland has also acted by giving power to local authorities to govern the growth of big-box chain stores.

    ``I see it as a conservation issue, no less than saving whales and the rainforest or the kiwi. Big business has always had to have limits imposed on it for us to conserve the world's resources and species.''

    Mr Snow said the same applied to town centres, many of which were dying, and big business was not prepared to impose its own limits.

    ``I'm not against chain stores in every town. The old chains like McKenzies and Woolworths were able to co-exist, but the scale of these new mega stores and centres is beyond what communities can stand.''

    NZPA HBT rjb cs
    16/01/03 11-56NZ
    Last edited by JNL; 20 Jan 2003 at 7:56 PM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    In the Good Ole U.S. of A you will occassionally see a community say "no" to a big box. Does it go away? No. It goes next door. Such is the case with my neighbors. Fort Atkinson has told a Wal-Mart Superstore to take a hike. They are now trying to put in a store five miles away in Jefferson, who is also fighting them. If the opponents are successful, Wal-Mart will move on to the next town. Frankly, I think we are a community in which (provided they do a very good job of designing) we would want them to expand the existing store to a superstore.

    Somebody will always say "yes" to a big box. A nation-wide ban on big boxes could be a different story. It would take away theat "next community" option. There is only one problem. These stores compete because of price. So do retailers on the Internet. Are you also prepared to ban Internet sales to support your local merchants and commercial districts?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    The main reason I would like to see them banned is because they are so fugly! It's the way that they build them that bugs me. About 20 mins drive from where I live, and where land is cheaper and more available, is a retail development called "the Mega Centre" which is a series of big-box superstores scattered around a massive carpark. It horrifies me! Nobody walks to get there and they even drive between the stores.

    I've seen some good examples from Australia of new retail developments that are single-storey, outward looking (i.e. lots of windows, with decking, outdoor seating etc), much more pedestrian friendly overall.

    Your point about internet retail is interesting but it isn't advanced enough yet to replace shopping for some items in person.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    Here's another interesting article I found today:

    UK DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER CLAMPS DOWN ON TRAVEL IMPACTS OF RETAILERS

    John Prescott, the UK deputy Prime Minister has over-ruled a decision to allow furniture retailer IKEA to build a 28,000 square metre outlet in Stockport, Greater Manchester. Planning permission was rejected on the grounds that the proposed store ran counter to a planning policy guideline which aims to reduce the need to travel, especially by car.

    Despite proposals by the furniture retailer to make public transport, walking and cycling viable options for travel to the store, Prescott noted that surveys suggested 90% of customers would still travel to the store by car. He suggested IKEA could investigate more central sites capable of accommodating the development, "in whole or disaggregated form."

    The decision effectively recognises that a destination's site is the greatest determinant of the amount of travel it creates, rather than the modal options which are available.

    For more information see http://society.guardian.co.uk/urband...842420,00.html

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I have to agree that a 150,000 square foot (14,000 square meter) building, built of decorative block and set amid a glorious field of new asphalt is just plain ugly. They could be built differently, but the companies resist. It is up to the local communities to force them.

    I still think the economic argument stands. They have been successful because they offer value over smaller competitors on both price and selection. There is also a convenience factor to being able to pick up everything you need in one location. The internet is making inroads. In the U.S., most parts of the country have seen 25-30% of households shopping on-line. Some product categories, such as office supplies and especially computer equipment, attribute a very significant percentage of sales to on-line purchases. It will be interesting to see the Internet's impact on retail as it continues to grow in prominance. Will small shops lose more sales? Will the big box become outdated?

    I think the Ikea example is an interesting one, that is perhaps not well thought out. Do they really believe that people will walk even a half mile to a furniture store? How many people will be carrying their purchases home with them? Or will they be getting onto a bus with their new desk?

    It's just my belief that we can't win when we fight market forces. We can shape them. As planners, we should be looking for good models of big box development, and hold firm when we tell developers how to build them.

  6. #6

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    Mike is generally right about standing in the path of market forces, at least here in the states. I wonder if the the government of NZ might at least be able to exact some concessions re design, etc., by declaring a moratorium and negotiating with the chains en masse, rather than having the battle fought one place at a time.

    I do not think ugliness is the main issue with big boxes, though most of them are terribly so. We always need to remember that price and cost are not the same, and that while we as individuals have an incentive to pursue the best price, we as a society often suffer because the price doesn't reflect the cost. I see Wal-Mart, et al, as seriously damaging in the long run because they create the illusion that it is possible to run a society on the basis of quantity (and quantity obtained from any place at any cost, as long as the costs are borne by somebody else) rather than quality.

  7. #7
    Assembly Square in Somerville, MA is struggling to be revitalized and it appears as if the proposed IKEA will not be built. Local planners and the state have expressed their desire for a new urbanism approach to the site. I am holding my breath that IKEA and other big box stores will not be permited to construct enormous single-story buildings. These stores do have a right to co-exist within a mixed-use neighborhood or PUD, but on a SMALLER more architecturally sensitive scale.

  8. #8

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    Lee Nellis has a very good point. It is almost impossible to stand in the way of rampant market forces. How do you define a "Big Box" retailer anyway? Is a large downtown department store one? Everyone complains about WalMart, but Target seems to skate by. Is it because the "chattering classes" guiltily like Target, while WalMart is for the rural "great unwashed." As for ugliness-most small town hardware stores and merchants decamped for their towns' strips a decade ago, and those locally capitalized shoestring buildings ain't winning no Pritzker Prize either.

    Because WalMart is so big it, like McDonalds, has a significant impact on the entire economy. Their drive for efficiencies and cost cutting HELPS (not causes, HELPS) encourage the continuous downward trends in sweatshop wages in low wage places like the Mariannas and China. I saw a great cartoon once, I think it was one of Derf's (www.derfcity.com), that showed a "Megalomart" with one of those "countdown" signs showing "HOW OUR LOW PRICES ARE GETTING EVEN LOWER!" In the next panel, it showed the same countdown sign, in a factory labeled "WAGES" and declining even faster.

    Still, WalMart's efficiencies of distribution and merchandise control are responsible for portion of the U.S. Economy's so-called productivity increase, so what do you do?

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