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New Report: Walmart’s Monopolization of Local Grocery Markets

Stacy Mitchell  |  June 27, 2019

For people living in Lawton, Okla., and Bismark, N.D., there aren't many options for buying groceries. Walmart controls 71 percent and 83 percent, respectively, of the grocery market in the two metro areas.

And these communities are hardly unusual. In a new analysis of 2018 spending data, ILSR found that Walmart captures 50 percent or more of grocery sales in 43 metropolitan areas and 160 smaller markets. In 38 of these regions, Walmart’s share of the grocery market is 70 percent or more.

Our new report examines the history of Walmart’s unchecked growth and the deliberate policy choices that enabled its dominance. We also offer ways to fix our broken grocery markets and explore how breaking up Walmart's power would benefits farmers, food workers, independent grocers, consumers, and communities. 

Read the report, and see the full map of Walmart's grocery footprint here.


Why We Need to Follow Europe’s Lead and Cap Credit Card Swipe Fees

Charlie Thaxton  |  June 11, 2019

Visa controls 60 percent of credit and debit card transactions, while Mastercard accounts for 25 percent. Absent competition, these credit card giants get to dictate rates to businesses, which end up paying sky-high swipe fees on every purchase Americans make with plastic.

Markets, not individual firms, are supposed to set prices. But through swipe fees, the card monopolies, together with the big banks that issue most cards, are able to levy a sizable tax across much of the economy. Merchants paid $75 billion dollars last year in swipe fees alone, with the highest costs falling on small, independent businesses. 

Europe has solved this market failure by capping swipe fees at 0.2 percent of a purchase — that's about one-seventh of the average rate here. The U.S. should follow suit. Read how.


  • As the House Judiciary Committee and antitrust enforcement agencies gear up for their investigations of Amazon and other tech giant, ILSR issued a statement on this critically important step.
  • ILSR Co-Director Stacy Mitchell spoke to Politico about the outlook: “These companies have every political interest in suggesting this is no big deal...But the striking thing is that all of them are massively beefing up their lobbying muscle in D.C. The thing to do is to watch what they do and not what they say.”
  • And Stacy was one of several experts who spoke with Australian national public radio about America’s unique anti-monopoly history and its lessons for today.
  • ILSR's Zach Freed talked with the Financial Times about Amazon's moves to corner government purchasing:  “Amazon is trying to make fundamental changes to federal procurement standards."
  • Stacy was also quoted in In These Times on the role Amazon has played in hollowing out community and neighborhood life. And Gizmodo consulted her for its in-depth look at Amazon’s punishing shipping regime.
  • Our dollar store research continues to galvanize action. In Oklahoma City, a city councilwoman has taken the lead on a moratorium on dollar stores. Other communities in Texas, Kentucky, Illinois, and Wisconsin are organizing and speaking out about the rapid spread of these chains.


  • As the Federal Trade Commission examines Amazon’s market power, it’s asking probing questions about several issues, including the way Amazon competes against its own sellers and how it’s increasing seller fees.
  • Amazon appears to be engaged in a “vendor purge.” In a power move that will lower its risk and increase its margins, Amazon is canceling orders with suppliers and pushing them to instead become third-party sellers on its site.
  • New details have emerged about Amazon’s secretly negotiated job offer to a Defense Department official, made just as he was designing the award process for a massive federal cloud services contract.
  • Plenty of everyday people, from restaurant owners, to musicians, to coders, are ready to see Big Tech broken up and regulated.
  • One year after the Supreme Court’s pivotal ruling on online sales taxes, more than half of the states have enacted a "marketplace facilitator" law, which puts responsibility for collecting taxes on Amazon, not third-party sellers.
  • New data show that three-quarters of struggling retail chains have gone through the private equity ringer. These debt-financed buyouts provide huge paydays for Wall Street, but often spell doom for the acquired companies.
  • Here’s a stunning inside look at the lavish “site selecting” industry that’s grown up to extract corporate subsidies from cities — all in the name of economic development.
  • This year, more than half of all retail store openings will be dollar stores and other discounters. "The great thing is this model works so well in good times and not-so-good times,” Dollar General’s CEO said.
  • A new community-owned grocery store has opened in West Oakland, Calif. The store was funded by residents through a "DPO," or direct public stock offering.
  • When a Rite Aid closed in Ridgeland, Miss., a former employee opened her own independent pharmacy. “We felt it was needed in this area,” she said. “I’m all about forming relationships.”
  • Patrons of D.C.'s Florida Avenue Market, with its eclectic mix of local businesses, are worried about its future. "When you start only having one type of stores and markets for people who have money you aren’t considering and thinking about other groups of people and other incomes in the city that need things."
  • Here’s a lesson about how to diversify our concentrated markets that isn’t so obvious: The more we limit cars and foster walking, biking, and transit, the more the built environment favors local business.

From informing policymakers to shaping media coverage, ILSR's research is
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Copyright © 2019 Institute for Local Self-Reliance, All rights reserved.

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