Economic Perspective: Another Hit to Small Towns

NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences professor Dr. Mike Walden working in a recording studio.

Dr. Mike Walden


“Today’s program looks at another hit to small towns. Mike, small towns, especially those outside of metropolitan areas, have been having trouble in today’s economy. Young people in particular like the bright lights of the city, leaving many small towns with an older and sometimes lower income population. Now I understand there’s another challenge facing small towns. What is it?”


“Well it’s e-commerce; that is buying things online. Traditionally, what has kept many small towns viable is that they serve as a location where their residents, and the residents in the rural areas living around the small town, go to shop. So they go there to buy their groceries. They go to buy their toothpaste, their detergent et cetera.”

“What’s happening now with e-commerce, as it expands, is it’s very easy now for people to virtually buy everything, not just your books, or your videos or your tech equipment. You can buy things like your detergent, toothpaste and groceries online, and in many cases have them shipped directly to your residence with no shipping charge. What many small town businesses who used to sell these kinds of products and services, people are finding, they can’t compete.”

“They can’t sell at a price that’s going to cover their cost and is going to beat the price that the e-commerce people are offering, including free shipping. So this is simply another challenge for particularly these small Mom-and-Pop retailers in small towns, and unfortunately what’s happening is you drive around North Carolina or other states in small town areas you see a lot of those stores boarded up. So another hurdle for small towns to face in terms of staying viable.”

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