The funny thing is, communites complain about Wal-Mart or Target coming into their areas, but then the parking lots are jammed with these same people from the day they open. Obviously, these companies are fulfilling a demand that either wasn't being met by existing retailers or are doing it more cheaply than existing retailers. Either that or the residents didn't really care either way, but wanted to complain about something.
If a mom and pop shop can't find a way to compete with Wal-Mart on price, they need to differentiate their shop in another way (customer service, return policy, delivery, higher quality goods, whatever). If they can't do that, they won't survive. If the public demands cheap, low quality crap from China because they don't care about having to replace their (fill in the blank) every year, and they don't care about exploitation of labor overseas, and they don't care about the environmental ramifications (both from production and disposition of crappy goods), then the Wal-Marts of the world will continue to thrive, especially in an economy where those at the margins can barely survive.
Personally, I shop where I get the best service and the best quality for my money. If I go into a local shop or big-box store and get crappy service, I typically won't go back ever again even if they have the best prices. Taking this back to Nike and surfing - the vast majority of hardcore surfers aren't going to buy Nike gear. It's going to be wannabes, kooks, and trend followers - ie, those who either don't know any better or aren't going to be surfing for long.
It seems to me like we're seeing a trend away from the Wal-Marts of the world and more towards the local economy lately, but maybe I'm wrong. There's nothing wrong with profit, but profit earned unethically is not acceptable.
very good post. pretty much sums up my position. not sure where you are going with the unethical part tho. Arguments with platitudes (hey, another big word) never work since they show naivete (whoohoo another big word). things like 'faceless corporations' is total bs since all companies are made up of people.