Vermont is home to more than 250 country stores, many of which have been the center of their communities for well over a century. Country stores are as varied and unique as the towns they serve. Most are small, cozy, locally owned and operated, and housed in historic buildings. Their offerings include staple products like newspapers and bread, as well as goods geared to the local market, such as fishing lures or gourmet cheeses.
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After more than two years in the discovery phase, a trial is finally scheduled to begin on April 9 in the antitrust lawsuit brought by the American Booksellers Association (ABA) and more than 20 individual bookstores against Barnes & Noble and Borders Books.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California, charges the two chains with using their market clout to bully publishers into providing "secret, discriminatory, and illegal" discounts not made available to independent bookstores, even on orders of the s
Independent retailers in Eugene, Ore. have banded together to promote the idea of shopping at locally owned stores. Their new cooperative advertising program, known as Unique Eugene, aims to "persuade Eugeneans that shopping at customer service-oriented local stores is better for the community and more fun."
"The big stores have enough marketing power behind them to tell their story," says co-founder Paul Nicholson.
Most people are familiar with the damage Wal-Mart, Target and other "big box" retailers have done to local economies. Across the country, these giant stores have gutted downtowns and decimated locally owned businesses.
Now the national chains are dealing communities a second blow. They are vacating their existing stores, sometimes to build bigger outlets, sometimes just closing up shop, in both cases leaving huge empty shells and acres of asphalt behind.
The Irish government has made permanent a temporary cap on the size of retail stores in effect since 1998. The new law restricts stores in the Dublin area to 3,500 square meters (38,000 sq. ft.) and applies a 3,000 square meter (32,000 sq. ft.) limit to the rest of the country.
The policy also requires that new retail stores be located in town centers.
At a hearing held in mid-November, residents of New Rochelle, New York were finally given an opportunity to comment on a proposed 308,000 square foot Ikea furniture store. They gave city officials an earful. More than 400 people packed City Hall, while hundreds more stood outside.
So many wished to testify that the city was forced to extend the hearings over five nights, taking 18 hours of testimony from more than 200 residents. All but a handful opposed the project.
Small business owners and neighborhood activists were elated in November when Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy decided to drop his controversial downtown redevelopment plan. The $522 million project involved demolishing 60 historic buildings and condemning 120 mostly locally owned businesses. In their place, Murphy sought to build a massive retail complex, anchored by a Nordstrom department store and several dozen national chains.
In December, representatives of the 29 states participating in the Streamlined Sales Tax Project (SSTP) approved model legislation that they hope state legislatures will adopt this year. If enacted, the legislation would move states one step closer to a sales tax system that applies equally to both traditional and electronic retailers.
A US Supreme Court ruling bars states from requiring remote sellers, including mail order and internet companies, to collect sales tax.
In an effort to raise funds, thousands of public schools are encouraging parents and neighbors to shop on-line. More than a dozen new companies, such as Schoolpop.com and SchoolCash.com, have created web portals that enable users to shop a hundreds of on-line retailers.
National retail chains frequently use charitable giving as a tool for overcoming local opposition to their expansion plans. Facing strong resistance in Western Branch, Virginia, Wal-Mart ran ads in the local paper touting the $200,000 it had given to local causes. In Auburn, California, Home Depot made charitable contributions a focal point of its campaign to overcome the community’s long-standing opposition to big box stores.