(NaturalNews) Most of the country lives in an urban or suburban environment. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010, the number of Americans living in the country's 3,573 urban areas (defined as population groupings of 50,000 or more) was about 249.6 million people.
To those who still live rurally, mom-and-pop stores and small businesses offering a variety of goods are still around. But never far away are what we call nowadays the "big-box stores" -- giant chain retailers that offer lots of stuff and can do so for less money. And Wal-Mart is the biggest.
Formula for small-business destruction
Cheaper goods may sound alright at first, but when you consider that the Wal-Marts of the world have a tendency to drive mom-and-pop stores out of business, it becomes a little more "real," so to speak. And that can be upsetting to some folks, especially those trying to make a living -- in this economy -- in Rural America.
The formula for destruction is always the same, according to Brandon Weber at Upworthy.com:
1) Move in.
2) Open doors with lower prices than anyone else.
3) Get employees on welfare and Medicaid because you don't want to pay well or provide medical insurance.
4) Force smaller shops out of business.
5) Raise prices, because now you're the only game in town.
6) Rinse, repeat 15 miles down the road.
And while some of his stated formula may be subject for debate, the general principle -- big box store beats out the competition -- is nonetheless accurate.
It's the sheer size and purchasing power of these giants that make them unbeatable for the little guy.
As for Wal-Mart in particular, its spread across the United States has been like that of a disease epidemic. Check out this graphic and see what I mean: click here (and scroll about halfway down the page).
Birth of a retail behemoth
The graphic tracks Wal-Mart's rapid spread from its home base in Bentonville, Ark., to every corner of the nation (and just about everywhere in between), beginning with one store in 1962 (and the graphic only goes to 2006; Wal-Mart has grown exponentially since).
And full disclosure: In my younger days, I worked at a brand-new Wal-Mart in mid-Missouri. I won't tell you when, but the year I worked at that new store, the company opened up a total of 54 stores (for a grand total, at that time, of 312 stores).
In all, today, Wal-Mart has over 11,000 stores in 27 countries, under 55 names. It is the largest private employer, with over 2 million workers globally. It's the largest retailer in the world.
The Walton family, which started Wal-Mart (Sam Walton was the founder) still runs the business; the family owns more than 50 percent of its stock.
Interestingly, or perhaps ironically, Walton's first store was a mom-and-pop shop in Bentonville called "Walton's Five and Dime." The storefront has been preserved, and here's what it looks like today: click here.