Mom-and-Pop Meet Big-Box: Complements or Substitutes?
Since the mid-1970s, chain retailers have grown significantly in the United States, and now account for a substantial share of retail sales and employment in the retail sector. This rise has raised concerns about the stores’ impact on smaller, family-owned retailers. The advancement of chain retailers is said to have caused the closing of smaller establishments, the decline in downtown retail districts and increased unemployment.
The validity of these preconceptions is examined in a 2009 paper by the University of Maryland and the Center for Economic Studies, “Mom-and-Pop Meet Big-Box: Complements or Substitutes?” This study quantifies the effects of the entry and growth of multi-store retailers within the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
Key findings include:
- Employment growth and survival of independent stores and smaller chains that operate in the same industry as a big-box chain are negatively affected by the entry and growth of big-box stores.
- Most of the negative effect is due to smaller stores being forced to close rather than reducing the scale of their operations. The negative effect is greatest for stores that are located within one to five miles of a big-box store.
- In terms of smaller chain stores in other sectors, the results are mixed. The one positive big-box effect is on smaller chain restaurants.
Tags: economy, employment
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the Center for Economic Studies paper titled "Mom-and-Pop Meet Big-Box: Complements or Substitutes?"
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the issue-related New York Times article titled "All the Tube Socks You’ll Need, Forever."
- If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.