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The Wal-Martization of America

How malls, food stores, and even Toys 'R' Us, are being being squeezed by the mammoth retailer.

12:00 AM, Sep 7, 2004 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
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And Wal-Mart is now a major player in food retailing. Food sales now account for over 25 percent of the chain's almost $300 billion in sales, up from 14 percent in 1997. To consumers' cheers, many supermarkets have had to reduce costs and prices in order to remain competitive. A&P, for example, has set up Food Basics, a chain of 25 stores that carry half the usual 35,000 items, charge for bags if customers don't bring their own, and have prices in line with those charged by Wal-Mart.

Then there is the final consummation of the stormy courtship of clicks (the Internet) and bricks (traditional retail stores). Fashionistas with strong arms picked up this month's blockbuster, 832-page, "Fall Fashion Spectacular" issue of Vogue. Interested in an item from the Ralph Lauren collection, or a great looking sable coat by Carolina Herrera? Just go to the Vogue website, click on the relevant page number, and it will be on its way to you. The ultimate in satisfaction for the impulse buyer.

The one common characteristic of all of these revolutions is obvious: the consumer wins. More choice, better prices, easier access to products and services. That's one of the reasons that the American consumer continues to find spending such a delightful past-time.

Irwin M. Stelzer is director of economic policy studies at the Hudson Institute, a columnist for the Sunday Times (London), a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard.