Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Shopping in Belfast, Maine (Open Trackback Post)

I'll be waiting for the raw data from this study to see how pertinent it actually is to the questions at hand about shopping in Belfast, Maine and how big-box stores would impact availability of goods.

At the direction of the Belfast Retail Review Commission, which was formed by the City Council to study the shopping issue, a committee of 14 volunteers from Senior College formed to examine whether essential items could be bought in Belfast at affordable prices.

With the help of representatives from agencies that serve the elderly and families with young children, the committee developed a list of 140 "necessary" items, and shopped for them in Belfast.

According to a statement released Monday, the volunteer shoppers found 136 of the 140 items in Belfast stores.

Here's a list of the stores they went to:

The volunteer shoppers each had a list of 10 to 12 items, and visited 26 stores: Renys, Ocean State Job Lot, Rite Aid, Family Dollar, Perry's Furniture, MacLeod's, EBS, Aubuchon Hardware, Home Supply, True Value, Shamrock, Thistle & Rose, Olympia Sports, Belfast Army/Navy, Colburn's, Nancy's Sewing Center, Heavenly Yarn, Green Store, Aunt Judy's, Waltz Pharmacy, Sears, The Good Table, Garden Cottage, Mr. Paperback, Fertile Mind Book Store and Linda Wry.

Right off the bat, I can tell you something's very, very wrong. If you're willing to spend five times as much for a pair of shoes as you would have to at Wal-Mart, and you don't mind if those shoes chafe the backs of your heels into a bloody mess, then by all means shop at Colburn's shoe store. And the Good Table, while it does sell many wonderful kitchen gadgets, does so at a great premium to Wal-Mart prices. Whenever I've checked, the prices have been at least double what Wal-Mart charges.

I love Belfast Army-Navy, but you really have to be willing to dig around to find what you need. Things are a bit jumbled together, but the prices are great.

Mr. Paperback could use some competition. They play their music way too loud in there, and the stench of coffee pervades the shop. If I don't find what I'm looking for within a minute or two, I give up. Wal-Mart doesn't really compete against bookstores to any great extent, other than for an extremely short list of current best-sellers.

It's fortunate for the committee that they waited to attempt this survey till after the advent of Ocean State Job Lots. There's no doubt that that one store has filled much of the vacuum left by the closure of Ames a few years ago.

One of the premises of this survey, and the conceit of all economic planners such as the Retail Review Commission, is that government is better able to discern the shopping needs of consumers than they themselves are. The commission's study seems to be chastising Belfast area shoppers who aren't willing to go to ten stores to pick up eight items. Just this morning, I had to go to three stores to find a simple air filter for my lawnmower. I would have spent less time, wasted less gas, and paid less for the part if I had simply headed for the Wal-Mart in Augusta. If I'd been forced to do this during a lunch break on a day when I'm working in Belfast (as many shoppers must, because most of the stores close so incredibly early), I'd have starved for the rest of the afternoon.

I'm not an apologist for Wal-Mart in general. It is a great abuser of eminent domain. They also tend to keep the volume too high on those TVs that hang from the ceiling. But I am a fan of their pricing, and of their self-check-out stations.

In general, the commissars of Belfast should step aside and let the free market decide "whether essential items could be bought in Belfast at affordable prices."



This is this week's post. Click on the chicklet for an FAQ on how to participate. In a nutshell, you may trackback to this post on any subject matter (at my sole discretion), so long as you've linked to this post. I'll manually put the links up here later today or tomorrow afternoon.

Angel, writing at Woman Honor Thyself, would like you to read her two cents about PFCs Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Lowell Tucker.

Mark Sprengel would like you to "mark his words," as he updates you about the crescent at the Flight 93 memorial.

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