In the News: Stacy Mitchell
March 2nd, 2018
Media Outlet: The Atlantic
The movement against Walmart in the mid-aughts was well-documented (and well led by our capable co-director Stacy Mitchell), but what of a similar movement against the latest retail behemoth Amazon? That is a question that The Atlantic‘s Alana Semuels is hoping to answer in her story, “A Small Town Kept Walmart Out. Now It Faces Amazon.”
For Semuels’ story, she reached out to Stacy Mitchell in order to get a sense of the policies that communities are adopting both to push out big-box stores and how that leaves them vulnerable for Amazon.
Here are her contributions:
Some communities are trying to push back against the decline of independent businesses by launching campaigns asking people to shop local, such as Local First Arizona and Portland Buy Local. (Greenfield launched its own currency—Greenfield Dollars—in hopes of getting people to spend money in the area.) City officials can zone downtowns for mixed-use retail, and create affordable commercial space in new housing developments, said Stacy Mitchell, the co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit that’s skeptical of big business. Some cities have helped set up community banks that are more likely to give out small-business loans, Mitchell said.
But it will be hard for cities to create a shopping environment more convenient than Amazon’s. Julie Keane, a 30-year-old who lives in Greenfield, told me that her family understands the importance of supporting local businesses, going to the Wilson’s department store when they can. But she has a 10-month-old son, and often, Amazon has baby products that the department store doesn’t. When Amazon was offering a free Prime trial two years ago, her family signed up. They now use it frequently, since it saves them time—it doesn’t make sense for Keane to pack her son into the car and drive to the Target 30 minutes away for the same products. And as long as she’s buying those sorts of products on Amazon, she’s likelier to buy other products, the kind available on Main Street, from the company too—the longer someone is a Prime member, the more money they spend on the site, studies show. “We try to shop locally,” she told me. “But sometimes, there are better options online to what we have.”