I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. And like most of the rest of the world, it’s a place full of small shops that is being invaded by huge chains from abroad. People complain about Walmart killing the neighborhood mini-market -almacen in spanish-. They said big shops are un-personal, hire the lowest wage people they can find and take all the money abroad.

That might be true, but I always liked big shops, and while Christmas-shopping recently I was reminded why. I don’t normally consume mainstream products. If a shop is carrying 5 different products of one kind, let’s say, 5 different calculators, they are not likely to carry the one I want (an HP with reverse polish notation of course). How many calculators does a shop need to carry to start having the one I want? Probably 40 or so, because it doesn’t sell much. The big international chain that carries 70 is likely to have it.

Now, one may imagine that there would be a small shop serving my niche, but there isn’t, because it’s not a very profitable niche. Every shop needs to carry the products that sell the most. Instead of having one shop with 70 calculators we have 14 shops, each with 5 calculators, exactly the same 5 models.