Saturday, December 5, 2009

independent businesses

this is from scallywag & vagabond

I did an interview today with the owner of an independent record store and movie rental. It was about the decline of the independent music industry and the differences between 'big box' chain corporation methods and those of independent ventures. The conversation began as a discussion of local independent music and quickly became a discussion of independent businesses versus large chains as a whole.

The conversation was interesting and sad. I didn't know anything about loss leading or the history of independent music stores in and around Champaign. He explained how ultimately, most small businesses will fold and towns will become more and more homogeneous as they house the same chain corporations. Right now, it seems that large chains and corporations can sell certain items for much less than privately owned stores. There are certain business incentives and strategies that make this possible, especially for certain items like CD's. However, once these corporations, specifically in the music, movie, and book industry, gain a monopoly there will be no incentive for them to keep their prices down. Theoretically, then, these chains will be able to dramatically raise their prices while consumers have no alternative to shopping there. Thus, there will be a market that literally will not be able to sustain an independent business. Aside from that, would a bank even give a loan to a business it knows from experience will probably fail?

He explained his disappointment at this trend of short-sightedness, but also expressed his awareness that consumers have to act in their own self-interest. It is unrealistic to expect every consumer to consider the welfare of independent businesses when they make day-to-day transactions, especially during the time of an economic recession. They would be foolish to try to dedicate all their money and time to supporting independent businesses. I can't stop thinking about the implications of this, though, with examples of this kind of trend rampant in the microcosm of our campus. I have to write a 6-8 page article about this now, and it is really difficult to distinguish my feelings about it from an objective description of what is going on. I don't like to think of myself as an idealist, but when I hear real-world accounts of things like this I become very disappointed, making that label kind of hard to deny. The last time I felt like this was when we watched 'Nothing but the Truth' in my JOUR lab. That's another topic though entirely I guess. If you can see it, I recommend it.

It's disarming how an hour long interview can occupy your mind for an entire day, especially about something that I didn't think about very much at all before. When I get into an inquisitive mood like this it is very difficult for me to focus on anything else. I'm not obsessive, I'm just curious.

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