It may be National Small Business Week, but lighting fires in a big box retailer to express support for a local shop owner seems a bit extreme.
Randol W. Stebner of Tacoma, Washington is being charged by authorities for lighting two fires at a local Home Depot, SeattlePI.com reports. But Stebner isn’t just a do-it-yourself arson enthusiast, he says he did to protest the negative impact Home Depot has had on the sales of his friend’s store.
Editor's note: The story below contains graphic language.
"I am upset with Home Depot because they are making business difficult for my friend," Stebner reportedly wrote in a confession, SeattlePI.com reports. "I have to get their motherfucking attention. I only set one fire, but I want to set a couple more."
Authorities were called shortly after Stebner lit two quickly extinguished paper bag fires, allegedly telling a local deputy “I am going to burn Home Depot to the motherfucking ground.”
Indeed, big box retailers like Home Depot, Best Buy and Walmart are experiencing somewhat of a backlash as of late. Most notably, online-organized events loosely affiliated with the Occupy movement called cash mobs have been springing up to to give local shops a much needed boost in sales. On a single day in March, around 200 such mobs gathered across the U.S. and Europe with participants spending around $20 each in local shops. More recently, residents of Watertown, Massachusetts have been picketing the possible arrival of a new Walmart they fear could harm mom and pop operations, WBUR reports.
But times may be changing. Nearly a third of small businesses reported an increase in sales over the last two quarters, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.com. By the same token, around 34 percent of small businesses expect to increase hiring over the next six months, according to a Capital One poll cited by the Wall Street Journal. Considering President Obama's recently proposed tax credit for small businesses and the possibility of further Senate support, things may only be getting better.
Big box retailers, however, are struggling to cope with changing behavior of their consumers who now choose to either bargain hunt online or travel to various stores to find the lowest prices instead of doing all their shopping in one stop, Bloomberg reports. Best Buy’s sales, for example, fell 25 percent in the first quarter compared to the year before. As a result, it and other chains like Walmart plan to open more smaller-sized stores, according to TIME.
Home Depot, however, seems to be bucking the trend -- at least for now. Combined, the company’s 2,200 nationwide stores saw a 28 percent increase in income in the first quarter, largely thanks to unseasonably warm weather, the Washington Post reports.