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The Contra Costa Times reports that the Contra Costa County Planning Commission is considering legislation that would ban retailers from selling major nonfood products in the same store as groceries -- effectively banning retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target from opening supercenters there.

The new law would prohibit any store larger than 90,000 square feet from devoting more than 5 percent of its sales space to groceries. Membership warehouses would be exempt.

The rationale behind the law is to protect local merchants, as well as cut down on the amount of traffic that can impact communities. Similar pieces of legislation have been passed in other California communities.

Ironically, no superstores have been proposed for the county, but supporters of the law say they are looking to make a pre-emptive strike.
KC's View:
While supporters of the law say that they believe there is "no socially redeeming value to this type of business model," the opposition says that "there is great value for the consumer in competition."

We weren't aware that retail formats had to be "socially redeeming" to be in business.

We're just not sure that this kind of legislation does anything but delay the inevitable competition that takes place in communities between big and small, between chain and independent. If independent retailers need laws like these in order to survive, then it suggests that they probably aren't as good as they need to be at marketing, at merchandising, and creating enduring and profitable relationships with their consumers.

Protectionism of this sort, it seems to us, simply is a mistake. It doesn't protect anyone or anything except a retailer's ability to temporarily avoid the inevitable.