In the UK and the US there are movements now seriously and openly questioning the economic and social impact of national and global retail brands while here in Australia we cheer on their continued growth.
We have watched our butchers, greengrocers, milk bars, delicatessens and petrol outlets be taken over by the two national retail giants in their pursuit of growth.
Besides occasional comments from the Labor Party and consistent comments from Senator Andrew Murray of the Democrats, little is said by politicians about what will be a problem.
Our towns and cities cannot afford any more independently owned retail businesses to close yet the small business lobby seem ineffective in gaining media and public focus on the problem. While the lobbyists are busy, their efforts do not seem to be addressing the issues which need to be addressed.
We need an organisation in Australia like the New Economics Foundation in the UK – they are a well funded independent group which researches these and other matters and publishes reports which gain media and political attention. It is their research into clone towns in Britain which helped facilitate the Parliamentary enquiry into the problem of clone retail.
Talk to any supplier involved with our two major retailers in this country and they will (if they are honest) express frustration and anger at the control exerted by having two so strong retailers. Everyone else in retail deals with the crumbs they leave behind.
As a community we won’t realise they are too big until there are many more small businesses closed along the way.