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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Targeting the Anti-Target Crowd

Bob Dunning, earlier this week, as only he can, derided those who suggested we should boycott business supporting the “No on K” campaign.
Whether this is a lifetime boycott or simply on Friday afternoons during the fall is unclear, but boycotting merchants who have taken a public stand on a political issue is a wrongheaded and distinctly un-Davis thing to do … we're not dealing here with folks who support apartheid in South Africa or suppression of third world workers … we're not even dealing with folks who root for Sac State … no, we're talking about a number of merchants who fear for their very lives and who have — in a fit of self-interest — declared their opposition to competition of any kind …
That’s about as back-handed a derision as you could get. Of course, in many ways, Dunning helped foster this kind of contempt. In his June 25, 2006 column Dunning labeled Downtown businesses as “SELFISH.” Ostensibly, that stands for “Sellers Expecting Lifelong Fidelity In Sacred Hometown”—in reality he’s just calling them selfish and trying to be clever about it.

Dunning stokes the fire and then jumps in as the voice of reason. This is hardly a surprise to anyone who has watched Bob Dunning operate.

As Lori Rumsey, owner of Mother & Baby Source demonstrates in her letter yesterday—just because she doesn’t have an anti-Target sign in her store window, does not mean that she doesn’t oppose Target.

And here’s what people who are supporting Target do not get. As she explains—about half of her store inventory is also carried by Target. But because she does not buy in bulk quantities, she does not get a discounted rate of purchase. Because she does not receive those cost reductions, she cannot compete with Target’s prices.

With that in mind, even Dunning’s opposition to the boycott contains inaccurate innuendos. He says that the merchants have “declared their opposition to competition of any kind”—in fact, as Rumsey demonstrates rather clearly, what they oppose is unfair competition. Target is not on a level playing field from them. They have two fundamental advantages—they buy in bulk—thus they can sell their products for a cheaper price than a small business. And second, they can undersell their competition, making smaller profit over the short-term in order to drive out competition from small businesses. This happens all over the country and it explains why you see the same chain and big box retail stores across the country and very few family run businesses are able to compete.

They don’t fear competition they fear annihilation by a big, faceless corporate entity. If they had fair competition, then I suspect, they’d say “bring it on.” However, this is a tilted table and they know it. Why doesn’t Dunning seem to despite his expressed neutrality to the Target issue?

Craig Mohar writes in the Davis Enterprise last night:
Until the city of Davis has the retail shopping opportunities many residents want, Davis residents will continue to drive out of town to spend their money.
This is the argument that is most frequently cited by supporters of Target. The problem is that Target is but one store. Do we do all of our out-of-town shopping at Target? No. So either, you have a partial solution in the building of Target or you are really laying the groundwork to bring in more of this type of retail. And at the end of the day, I think that’s EXACTLY what the developers have in mind.

Mohar also writes:
The proposed Target store is going to be a very nicely designed building that will be the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified building in Davis and will include landscaping with more than 250 trees and plants.
I’ll give Mr. Mohar this—he has his talking points down. It was almost as though he wrote his letter right from the template. Here’s the problem with his argument however—unless you are a true NIMBY this argument makes no sense. Target is not an environmentally friendly corporation on a global level as we showed in our blog entry last Sunday. Target is anything BUT an environmentally friend corporation in fact. So the only way this argument can at all be compelling is if you only care about the environment in Davis but care nothing about the overall global environment. It’s nice subterfuge, but it misses the larger point.

The Davis City Council and planners knew they could never get a Wal Mart approved by the voters or accepted by the community. However, at the end of the day, Target is exactly the same as Wal Mart except that they’ve been able to foster a better reputation. That’s it. The same practices you hate from Wal Mart are practiced on a daily business by the Target Corporation.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting