Big Business Hawaii Small Business TourismWritten by Steven Petranik On 25 October 2010

There’s a struggle going on in my town, Kailua, over the planned opening of a Target store. The anti-Target forces are very visible: signs posted in frontyards, protesters on the sidewalk next to the site, and emotional testimony at public meetings.

Their concerns about Target are well-founded:

• It will draw shoppers from nearby communities and crowd an already congested sidestreet, Hahani Street;

• Target’s low prices will probably draw business away from some shops in town;

• It will continue an evolution of Kailua town away from a quirky beach town and commuter suburb to more of an Any Upscale Suburb, USA.

That evolution has already seen the introduction of outlets like Pier 1 and California Pizza Kitchen, and next year’s opening of a Whole Foods Market.

But those stores are popular with shoppers, as are the big box retailers like Costco and Target. So you are bucking the free market when you say Target doesn’t belong in Kailua.

The opposition is especially inconsistent when it comes from small business owners, who usually advocate for more freedom from outside interference. In this case, they don’t want that same freedom for Target, for landlord Kaneohe Ranch, or for consumers.

My in-laws used to live in Lake Forest, Ill., a favorite home for Chicago’s corporate elite. I always found it very contradictory that the residents of Lake Forest could argue for free-market policies for their businesses but create some of the country’s strictest zoning laws. The message was free enterprise for America, just not in my neighborhood.

If it comes, Target will undoubtedly hurt some Kailua businesses. But I think the stores that will be hardest hit by Target will be the Kailua’s Macy’s and Long’s outlets, both long-time presences in the community but hardly unique small-town businesses.

As for Kailua’s many other stores, I think few will be badly hurt by Target. They carry different lines, charge different prices and attract different customers from Target. Target will probably steal customers from Kailua and nearby towns who are now spending many of their dollars at chain discount stores outside Windward Oahu.

The biggest pain will be increased traffic. There’s no question that Hahani Street, already a difficult-to-navigate sidestreet, will become more congested. But it seems unfair to me that Kailuans can clog up streets outside popular stores in other neighborhoods on Oahu, but want their own streets marked out-of-bounds for outside shoppers.

And Hahani is right in the middle of Kailua’s commercial district. It was designed for shoppers – it just needs to be adjusted to accommodate more of them.

I’d like to hear more ideas from Target, Kaneohe Ranch and the city on how to make traffic flow better outside the new store. But don’t let that issue alone stop it. Let the market decide if Target is right for Kailua.

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Steven Petranik

Editor, Hawaii Business magazine

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You make a few interesting points, but as a Kailua native I will point out that when we shop out of town at large establishments they are in planned communities with enough space to handle the traffic. Our ingree/egress roads run through residential areas not planned roadways designed to handle the volume such as Hawaii Kai and Mililani. Hahane street is locked into an area that puts the travel burden on the feeder street. Streets that again are residential areas with sidewalks, bike lanes and elementary schools and churches. Streets where Kailua people walk to town and events like the farmers market. I suspect you don't want that traffic in your front yard either.