For the past week, one of the New York Times' "most e-mailed" articles has been an article comparing Costco to Wal-Mart. I highly recommend this article for your attention, since Wal-Mart is likely to come to Juneau in 2006 and Costco is already here. The article mentions how different in philosophy the two companies are, and by implication, how these different philosophies effect the communities in which they are located. Costco's employees are among the best paid in the retail industry, while Wal-Mart's are among the worst paid. Costco keeps down prices by choosing a few brands and obtaining the best discounts from its suppliers.
Wal-Mart has a reputation of buying the lowest-priced goods from suppliers who themselves pay the lowest wages and benefits. Costco appeals to middle- and upper-middle-class customers with specialties and delicacies, in addition to its lower-priced basics, while Wal-Mart's strategy is to cut all costs to the bone. Costco's CEO pays himself a modest wage, while Wal-Mart's owners are reputedly billionaires.
I have copied the article myself since I am a former retailer and come from a family of retailers here in Juneau now 70 years. I urge you to read the article (from July 17). It seems to me that these different philosophies and practices have a lot to say about how our community will function in the future and what values and ethical principles will be perpetuated here.