Staying away in droves

So the crowds were thinner than expected at today’s opening of IKEA in Portland, according to KGW TV. Good. Maybe most Portlanders are too smart to be fooled by the hype. Or maybe they just listened to all the broadcasters telling them how to avoid traffic jams around the store and decided instead to stay away.

I just saw the TV report and don’t have a link directly to it, but I did capture one quote from a local IKEA spokesperson who downplayed the impact the store’s opening would have on other (local) retailers. “Lots of people will be out buying home furnishings more regularly now than they would otherwise,” the gentleman said. And I suppose more electronic gadgets when a Best Buy opens, or more books when a Barnes & Noble opens or more everything when a Wal-Mart opens. As if dollars magically appear in our wallets anytime big-box retailers come to town.

There’s only so much disposable income to go around in any community. A retailer doesn’t add disposable income, except when the money it generates stays in the community and multiplies among other local merchants, producers or suppliers it does business with. That’s what makes independent locally owned businesses part of the fabric of a community and what makes IKEA and others like them part of the fraying edge.

July 25th, 2007

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