WAL*MART HELPS SMALL COMPETITORS

Two small neighborhood hardware stores which must compete with a nearby Home Depot, are being helped to survive by another big-box competitor – Wal*Mart. In the Austin area on Chicago’s west side, Wal*Mart initiated a new program in early January of supporting small stores in its immediate trade area by giving selected local stores, including the two hardware stores, free advertising for a 3-month period on its in-store TV network. It might also help pay for other types of local advertising. In addition, the company is donating $300,000 to local chambers of commerce. The two stores are B & S Hardware and Dandridge Hardware Center, both of whom must compete with a nearby Home Depot as well as the hardlines products stocked by the world’s largest retailer. The Home Depot store opened about 5 years ago and had a noticeable effect on the stores’ business, it was reported. Owners of the two stores said they had done little advertising on their own except for direct-mail circulars obtained from their major wholesaler. An auto parts store also is among the first group of stores being promoted. Wal*Mart’s stores also carry automotive supplies. North Avenue on Chicago’s west side, where the Wal*Mart is located, consists of store-front churches, currency exchanges, dollars stores and other small merchants of various kinds. Chicago is the first of 10 cities in which Wal*Mart says it will be supporting local merchants in depressed business districts. It has been attempting to open stores within larger cities, but some of its efforts have been blocked by local merchant groups as well as by politicians. It is felt this program will alleviate some of the political pressure. In the next 3-month period, other local stores will be promoted and supported by Wal*Mart in the North Avenue region.