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Big-Box Debate: Wal-Mart vs. Target

I never understand why Wal-Mart gets so much criticism and other big-box retailers like Target are lauded and welcomed. I worked in a city where a development application came in for a Wal-Mart and the city exploded in outrage, so much so that Wal-Mart withdrew the application. Meanwhile, just a few months before that, a Target came in with no problems that I know of. Why is this? I assume it is all about marketing for a more “hip” image by Target, the clientele that is associated with shopping at Wal-Mart, and the supposed higher-quality products sold at Target. From a planning standpoint, they are both just as bad in my book. Although, Target seems to be willing to locate in more urban environments and even have parking garages, but perhaps that is only because Wal-Mart was run out of town first. It is amazing what the power of marketing and image can do for a company.

I also will freely admit that I frequently shop at Target. The store I shop at in Sacramento is the closest major retailer to where I live and is located on the fringes of downtown. Why do I shop there? Because there is nowhere else left to shop for the kinds of goods that Target sells! Okay, maybe if I went to four or five different stores, paid double, drove dozens of miles, and spent hours doing all of this.

The picture above is of one of the better developments I have seen that includes a Target store. This development, located in State College, Pennsylvania also includes Dick’s Sporting Goods, Wegmens, and Circuit City among others. The street that accesses the development has bike lanes, wide sidewalks, mid-block crossings, and pretty decent bus shelters. There are also some public art features mixed in to the development. Here are a few photos I took of the site:

See, sprawl can be a little more eye-pleasing. In general, California is much better about incorporating these pedestrian and bicycling enhancements than the Midwest and East Coast. However, the growth of sprawl is much more rapid in most cases in California.

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