BOX STORES ARE RUINING CANADA'S CULTURE
The 20th century was Canada’s century, at least according to Canada’s former Prime Minister, Sir Wilfred Laurier. However, it’s now the 21st century and Canadian businesses are being wiped out by American corporations. The 21st century doesn’t belong to us, nor does it belong to the Americans. Instead, it belongs to the transnational corporate forces of globalization.
Canadian retailers are slowly being displaced by American retailers. “The number of Canadian retailers in the mall has fallen by 10 percentage points,” wrote Sunny Freeman in the Huffington Post, while the “number of U.S. retailers has risen by nearly the same amount.”
Does this mean that American culture is being branch planted in Canada and that we are slowly losing our identity? Partly.
America is not some monolithic culture. There are a multitude of competing economic cultures in America. Not every business model is able build stores in multiple countries, nor are there many business models which can withstand adversities such as a recession. What we are left with are multinational corporations. These corporations are different because they drown out all other competing voices and they create the environment by which they thrive. Corporations like Walmart and Best Buy come and build supercentres and stand-alone box stores which serve only one purpose: consumerism.
Some retailers, whether Canadian or American, create communities such as Lonsdale Quay or Granville Island. Those amazing stores showcase specialty and locally made products. Their profits are also invested back into the community. The stores are created by locals who are trying to fill a niche need in the community.
This means that the stores are often unique and solve an identified local problem. Finally, the stores often aesthetically fit the local scenery better, which creates a more livable and vibrant neighborhood. It creates a community that people want to belong to and make better. Mc- Donalds on the other hand looks almost identical in every location, making it look unnatural and offsetting. These supercentres also damage the local shops around it.
According to McGill University professor Minha Hwang, when a supercentre such as Walmart enters a community, its competitors see less foot traffic. This means that people are seeing a smaller variety of local stores and personalities. Supercentres such as the Costco in Burnaby are a one stop shopping centre. There is no need to go to any local stores after going there.
“The more successfully a city mingles everyday diversity of uses and users in its everyday streets,” wrote Jane Jacobs in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, “the more successfully, casually (and economically) its people thereby enliven and support well-located parks that can thus give back grace and delight to their neighbourhoods instead of vacuity.” This means that when people walk, shop, rest on the park bench, people watch from a cafe, and perform other activities, they are getting engaged in their community. They get to know each other and become invested in the community that brought them together.
When a person travels to a supercentre, there is nothing else in the area, and no reason to go anywhere else. The person drives there in their car, they buy what they need and then they drive away. A key point being that it’s far away from their residence. There is no diversity of uses with a supercentre, and their home is wholly separate from where they shop. Whether the supercentre is Canadian or American is irrelevant.
The independent America voice is consumed just as readily as the Canadian voice, and any Canadian company that grows to such high extremes would naturally lose its Canadian features. In the Canadian Petri dish, we are left with conglomerates like Loblaws and Canadian Tire. A retailer becomes problematic, not because of their country of origin, but by actions which corrode the community.
When one is asked whether we should be concerned that American retailers are replacing Canadian retailers, we should respond with another question. Have we become so preoccupied with differences of nationality that we are overlooking the fact that all the companies coming to Canada act the same? We should be more concerned about the effect that transnational corporations are having on Canada and on the 21st century.
Campus Life Editor
Community Relations Manager
Arts and Culture Editor