I’m not normally a fan of any doctrine or restriction that stifles competition. I’m also not an ideologue and I am not interested in watching the world burn in the name of unfettered free markets. I think there’s nothing wrong with striving for some sort of balance in business for the benefit of everyone, even if getting to that balance can be sticky at times or require nuanced thinking and planning.
With that in mind, here’s an idea that I think would help bring back a balance to the landscape of New York City neighborhood retailing…
From the New York Post:
You’ll have to hike awhile to reach the nearest Starbucks or Duane Reade if city comptroller and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson has his way.
During a forum last week in Midtown, the Democrats’ front-runner argued that chain stores are ruining the fabric of the city and suggested imposing restrictions to keep them from proliferating.
I absolutely could not agree more with Nanny Bloomberg‘s foremost rival for the next mayoral campaign here in New York. I’ve stomped these streets my entire life, and over the last few years, I’ve been disgusted with the sameness of it all, especially uptown and in midtown.
And of course, I understand that chain stores bring lower prices which frees up discretionary spending for other things. I also get the fact that the chains wouldn’t exist if people didn’t appreciate their uniformity and convenience.
But throw all that away for a moment and think about how tragic it would be if the current consumer spending drought continues and all that vacant store space in NYC gets filled with California Pizza Kitchens, Citibank ATM outposts and (shudder) more Starbucks.
Many strip malls in the US are now interchangeable with their counterparts in virtually every other region in the country. Only the liquor stores and dry cleaners remain locally-owned and indigenous. To turn Manhattan’s idiosyncratic neighborhoods into clones of Bloomfield Hills, Grosse Point or Chevy Chase would be criminal.
And so as someone who is mostly free market-oriented, I have to say that I think it’s time we put a stop to the homogenization of the greatest city in the world. Because the balance has been so out of whack for so long, a little bit of legislative restriction may be the only option left for us in order to avoid the mass exodus of local merchants and businesses from our town.
Bloomberg’s reelection campaign hasn’t weighed in on this yet…the captain of industry in him may dislike the proposal instinctively, but then the babysitting micro-manager in him might win out and enable him to get behind the idea as yet another legacy-building social engineering project.
I guess we’ll see.
Thompson Breaking Chains (NYP)