Mal Wart is coming to Fergus. Buckle UP!

Bet ya some of you had no doubt what I would be commenting about this week… you got it cowboys and girls: Mal Wart (MW). Yes I can’t seem to bring myself to call it by its rightful name… I have a bumper sticker that says “Mal Wart, your place for cheap plastic crap’’ and from this I have trained my brain to think this is ‘that’ stores name for real! No re-wiring necessary, since I don’t shop at the one south of us by 15 minutes, nor have I had the urge to in the last 8 years.

It IS possible to not shop there, my children are still young enough not to have even started influencing me. The subject is touchy around some parts of my family, as when my kids are in their care, I am not going to die on the ‘don’t take my kids to Mal Wart’ hill, I have more important hills to conquer. However, they all know how I feel about it and sometimes they apologize for the spider man slippers my son now possesses.

Those of us that are opposed to MW all do so for very different reasons. Those of us in retail or manufacturing have our own set of peeves, very different from those who are opposed to the ‘everything made in China’ proverb. Since 90% of what we use on a day-to-day basis is from there anyway, I don’t think that is a valid argument. As a manufacturer and possible supplier to MW I would first of all be expected to have on-time delivery down to the minute, and should my shipment be late, the purchase order can be considered invalid.

Further, I would be expected to offer-up a 5% discount on my merch on a year-to-year basis. In the world I live in, raw materials go up in price, especially those with an oil-base(plastics) therefore, the business would simply would simply go bankrupt. Many, many companies have gone bankrupt trying to keep up with MW’s demands, Vlasic Pickles is one.

The Buyers for MW are bullies. How so? Well maybe I am crazed and want to do business with them. So I take my beautiful unique widget to them. In their infinite wisdom they tell me ‘yes we like the product, not your price, and if you don’t lower the price we are going to take it to China and they will knock off your design via Private label, thereby we will get our low price we demand either way… you can work with us or against us.’’ This was Levi jeans experience, and they decided to defer to MW, shut down North American manufacturing, including the plant in Waterloo that employed some 300 people and off to China it went. In their bid to not go bankrupt, they opted for cheaper fabrics, thus the rugged jean we all once knew and loved is no longer… making it yet another disposable piece of clothing that will clog landfills.

I also have an issue with how they ensure not to have to offer benefits of any kind to their staff by keeping their scheduled hours at low levels. This probably upsets me the most, but I have heard the same from other nationally known grocery stores doing the same, so perhaps this scabby behavior is more widespread than I would like to think. In Mexico MW employ children (employ is a loose term here) to help customers get their packages to their cars. They don’t actually pay them at all, and these children simply hope to get paid via tips. This practice is actually more widespread than we’re all comfortable with, in third world countries, such as in resorts and cruise lines, but I digress.

I was informed recently that when MW opened in Orangeville, their zoning laws didn’t permit a store of that size, giving the Township clout when hammering out development charges. One being that MW would pay a tax levy to the Orangeville BIA for beautification purposes. Unfortunately, our Township allows for zoning of up to 120,000 sq ft, and the proposed MW is for 90,000 leaving our Township powerless.
Our downtown business community is deeply concerned about the impact this will have, and it will likely devastate Fergus, as the closing of the Mill will have on Elora. The Mill isn’t a permanent closure, however, everyone is still paying upwards of $1500 a month in rent down there until the reno is complete and I doubt most of these shops will survive the wait.

I will leave this as a reminder to all the folks who come to all the downtown merchants for support for their various silent auctions, curling bonspiels and fundraisers: remember everytime you go to MW to shop to ‘save money’, you are further cutting off your own access to merchants who have been overwhelmingly supportive of your various initiatives over the last century. Yes Century.

Want to make a statement about all this? Start by not shopping there for one. Further, contact your councilor about why the firetruck zoning bylaws in place have now compromised your community.

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