A Republican lawmaker said something dumb this week.
I know, I know. Stop the presses, right?
Rep. Ronald Hubert, R-Milton, who owns a retail business, said between 10 and 12 “mom and pop stores” are closing every year because of state mandates.
Mmmm. And you know this how, exactly? Did the 10 to 12 mom and pops check the “Burdensome State Regulations” box on their mandatory “Reasons for Closure of Small Business” forms?
Now, I have no trouble believing that a dozen “mom and pop stores” are closing every year in Vermont. There’s a natural attrition among small businesses. But aside from that, our hardy moms and pops are under siege — not from state regulations, but from big chain retail. I’ll be you dollars to Maple Glazed Koffee Kup Donuts that the single biggest threat to mom-and-pop retail is the rapid proliferation of Dollar General stores that offer a full range of groceries as well as aisles and aisles of cheap plastic crap.
Which brings me to my modest proposal.
Vermont’s mom and pop stores have tethered themselves politically to Big Retail. Indeed, they are invaluable props for chief Big Retail lobbyist Jim Harrison: whenever there’s a bill that might possibly touch on retail interests, Harrison rustles up a few moms and pops to make his cause human and relatable.
In fact, however, the interests of Big Retail are often at odds with the moms and pops of the world. And Vermont’s independent retailers would be well advised to disengage from the cold embrace of Jim Harrison and create their own advocacy group.
I’d suggest Vermont Association of Independent Retailers, or “VAIR” for short.
Sounds like “fair,” right? I think it’s a winner.
Rep. Hubert’s comments came during floor debate on the paid sick leave bill. Which, in actual fact, would affect Big Retail much more than mom & pop.
Small retailers have small staffs, and usually have good relationships with their employees. Well, I’d hope so. Most of them already accommodate the needs of their employees on either a formal or informal basis. Or, again, I’d hope so. The additional “burden” of paid sick leave would be small to nonexistent.
Big Retail, on the other hand, would have to establish systems for complying with the bill. They’d have to give their Vermont workers a benefit they don’t offer elsewhere. Plus, if it passes in Vermont it could gain momentum elsewhere, and that’s the last thing Wal-Mart and Dollar General want.
Same thing with the sugar-sweetened beverage tax. It was hardly a threat to mom and pops, even those near New Hampshire, because their customers are popping in for a few items and a slug of sugar and caffeine. They’re not going out of their way for a single can or bottle. But they will go out of their way to buy a six-pack, 12-pack or case. And that’s Big Retail’s domain.
On issue after issue, Vermont’s small retailers act as politically appealing camouflage for the interests of big chain stores.
Message to mom and pop: Big Retail doesn’t have your interests at heart. They are, in fact, the biggest threats to your existence. They pay Jim Harrison’s salary, and they set his agenda.
Stop paying your dues to the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association. Set up your own organization. Get a real mom-and-pop lobbyist who’s dedicated to your needs and interests.