A Bunnings development application is blocked by a council. The local paper publishes a story in Adelaide. The ignorant complain about jobs and progress. It is the same old story. Here is what the ignorant are unaware of, though.
A recent Facebook post by The Advertiser said:
“A local council’s development panel has knocked back a proposed Bunnings store, saying it would generate heavy traffic and hurt existing traders.”
Cue the ignorant saying: “Oh because we don’t want jobs and progress in Adelaide”.
The problem is …
a) It is another example of flawed zoning laws that need to change,
b) job displacement.
I will focus on the job displacement topic because these “big box” stores can have net loss effect on job creation. That is not progress one bit.
Once upon a time
A small family-run hardware store closed not long after Masters opened nearby at Adelaide Airport. It happens all the time when these bigger stores move in nearby and customers think that they will find everything cheaper there. Masters did not last long.
It was South Henley Hardware on Henley Beach Rd, Henley Beach South, that closed after 60 years of the family running it. Thanks to Masters! That is a story repeated across Adelaide with all sorts of shops after bigger competitors wiped them out. Clothing shops are among the more recent examples.
What some of the public who cry about jobs forget, is that it is more than just a local independent hardware store that closes when Bunnings or another big chain wipes them out (same with supermarkets and greengrocers, butchers and bakeries). There are shops that sell similar hardware and home products, like garden nurseries, and in some cases services, e.g. paint mixing and sales of paint products. These are often wiped out as well.
The multiplier effect on lost jobs is not always cancelled out by the jobs created by bigger stores. There can be a net loss of local jobs overall. That is not progress one bit. This is what “oh but the jobs Bunnings will create” whingers do not think of.
In fact, sometimes the jobs that are created at Bunnings do not always even offer enough hours. I heard a guy in my local Bunnings tell his colleague that he only had one shift that week. This is the trouble with spreading the work around. If only that guy had gone to an independent hardware store or garden nursery to get work (out of what ones are left). He may have at least picked up two or three shifts from Friday to Sunday when those places are busier. It is a start but of course you cannot live on that bit of work if you are relying on it for a living.
Once the larger store has captured the local market they can jack up prices to rip off everyone. In addition, they may have exclusive supply arrangements like Bunnings does for some of its products. This is why the price guarantee is a widely known con because you absolutely will not find the same stocked item cheaper elsewhere. You may find rat bait on special at Woolworths, along with some of the other common items found in hardware stores, but not the exclusive products. This is why no one believes the price match guarantee.
It definitely pays to ignore the ads and shop around. Sometimes you will find better value for money elsewhere. The price of a product can be cheaper sometimes at Mitre10 and other stores. The quality and size of that product can be better and bigger for that price too. So Bunnings can be good for some products but not for others. Then there is the staff and their product knowledge, or lack thereof.
People complained all the time in social media about the staff’s lack of product knowledge at Masters. Indeed, this is one of two common complaints about Bunnings from the public in social media. The other one is the half-dead plants that appear to be diseased and do not appear to have been watered for days. (Smart people usually do not buy plants from garden centres but rather from plant nurseries that know what they are doing to an extent.)
This is the difference between big box stores and smaller, independent stores. You cannot beat what the latter offer as far as knowledge goes. They also tend to water their plants more often and offer plants from accredited growers (certainly with the retail plant nurseries). Hardware store garden centres also offer some of their plant range from accredited wholesale nurseries, but it is the way in which they are looked after in the retail setting that is the difference.
Bunnings at Mile End is the only Bunnings store in the inner suburbs from which I would buy a plant or two. The range of plants and accessories is quite big by comparison to the non-warehouse Bunnings stores. So I do not mind recommending that place at least. I used to like Masters as well to an extent. Their range was smaller and some of their plants were bone dry but it was a nice enough garden centre for some products and cheap tubestock plants of good quality. It does pay to shop around and get some of what you need or want at one place and go to a different brand store for other products or plants.
Moral of the story
If you shop local, say at a family-run Mitre10 or garden nursery, then you are keeping the money here instead of in a CEO’s pocket elsewhere. Recent American media stories have provided statistics showing that people are growing tired of these tedious, generic, big box stores. They are returning to family-run ones instead. The pendulum is swinging back as the big box experiment proves to be very poor for customers. The same situation will occur here in due time.
So perhaps the ignorant could keep the above points in mind next time a Bunnings development is blocked for any reason? Then the ignorant will not humiliate themselves quite as much 🙂
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