Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Competition Commission - we need a more holistic approach

Last week I spent £65.50 on my shopping. I'm an extravagant shopper, but I like to have lots of goodies to eat in my house of 2 1/2 people. I went to 5 of my local shops. I bought some succulent mangoes, some vivid fragrant coriander and some organic, flavourful beef amongst other things. I know all of my shop keepers even though I've lived in my area for only 2 months. My son was cuddled and cooed over. Several sweets were offered. My newsagent told me about the ins and outs of running a marathon. I met a mother from our nursery.

It took me 40 minutes door to door and I didn't drive. I have done a similar shop at Waitrose (£95) and at Tesco (£78). Neither competes in terms of quality of fruit, veg, meat and fish in my eyes.

I am lucky. I have lots of local shops near me. I keep an eye on the prices and know which shops are better for which. People continue to flock to this area and the ready made community that these little shops create. My mother lives in an area with no local shops. Her nearest is a massive Tesco. She doesn't know anyone in her area (except her immediate neighbours). She has been there 15 years.

Having lots of local shops fosters a sense of community. We therefore have to look much closer at the role shops play. We can't thrown their role in the landscape of our lives off lightly. This report is short sighted. Let's look at the dominating role they play in our communities and take a more holistic approach.


rob said...

Great post, and I heartily agree. Why can't people seem to understand that big supermarkets = wasteland? Or perhaps more to the point, why don't people care?

I'd heartily recommend the book 'Not On The Label' by Felicity Lawrence to anyone interested in this subject. It covers almost everything to do with our industrialised food system, from animal welfare to additives to the effect on our communities and those elsewhere in the world. Lots of facts and figures to back things up too!

Phill Clark - The Law Firm said...

You should read today's Independent Newspaper as they cover the story fairly well. They commented on the the state of high streets in the US. Being the country that created and encouraged the large chains such as Wal-mart to to move in and then went on to invent shopping malls, the approach has had a profound effect on the small towns across the States. The car is most definitely king as there are very few shops to walk to. The high streets are becoming depressed areas, home only to launderettes and a few office blocks. The Independent also commented on Inverness where every 65 pence spent in Inverness, is spent in one of the three Tesco's dotted around the town.

Wal-Marts 'endline' is "Save Money, Live Better." Looking at the towns across the States, this is factually incorrect.

Henry Playfoot said...

It's depressing that this report measures value in terms of prices and access to multiple supermarkets - completely (and deliberately?) missing the point.

Most of us now have first-hand knowledge of how corrosive big stores are in terms of quality of life. Compare the experience of avoiding other dead-eyed shoppers in your local superstore to walking down the high street, in and out of bakers, butchers and fishmongers (remember them?)

As well as the demonstrable benefits to our communities I'm passionate about how local shops can support a vibrant food culture in our towns and cities.

With obesity levels rising and food taking an increasingly peripheral role in family life, isn't it time we started cooking again, using fresh locally bought produce?

Anonymous said...

This is in my mind a tragic case of dumbing down. The politicians and journalists who are charged with the responsibility to present a fair and balanced view have failed us all. The myopia that surrounds the topic doesn't allow for community views, just commercial return. Lazy politics, lazy journalisim.

Their vision is bereft of imagination. Their one diemsional ideas for the future should worry us all.

Our opportunity is to challenge them to consider other points of view, to present an alternative, to stimulate peoples to imagine an better future

Anonymous said...

Roberta from Ethika
I totally agree. Here in Norwich local stores have been profoundly impacted by Chapelfield, the newest mall to be built in the city centre. There is only so much money to go round and when these vast monoliths are created offering rent free space to national and multi-national chain stores to tempt them in it effectively cuts the heart out of our cities and towns by bankrupting the small shops which make a city a community. Inevitably a shopping offers the consumer less and less choice and there is grim uniformity of goods on sale whether it's Norwich, Nottingham or Northampton. Is this really something which we want to encourage? Why is it that so many city councils fall prey to the honeyed words of the developers, ignoring the very people they should be representing? The homogenous concrete jungle has no warmth and no sense of belonging, it is an artificial world masquerading as a local facility whilst it drains the purses of the small community into the national and international boardrooms of global enterprise. Competition - well, yes maybe - after all David did ultimately bring down Goliath!

Moritz Steiger I Independent London said...

As someone who lives within 300 yds of two Tesco's which completely dominate the economic landscape of my community (sometimes i feel like a consuming slave to the 'great Tesco') with the larger of the two having a huge car park and the other quite large one wholly dominating a small local high street. The high street used to have a street market which is now reduced to one or two stalls only selling what Tesco's doesn't sell. The competition commisions report (read about it here to me has focused completely on the wrong thing. Its report seems to concentrate only on the level of competition between the supermarkets and not the effect they are having on the wider economy. This effect to me is more important, if they propose more stores for them to compete with one another the only possible effect can be to further desomate high streets and local shops. Food in the UK is dominated now by only a few suppliers and this shows with the poor quality of fresh food found in supermarkets. This situation can only get worse.

Moritz Steiger I Independent London said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steve Massey said...

Did shopping at Waitrose and/or Tesco take similar time and mental effort to shopping locally? Other than the shopkeepers, do you get to meet people in your community as a result of shopping in local shops?

welovelocal said...

What a great post. It is really interesting to see your price comparisons, of how much it costs to shop locally or in a big super-market.

I totally agree with everything you have written, the homogenized super- markets are killing the element of choice. Everything is the same, and the options are simply boring.

I have become increasingly disillusioned with the produce Supermarkets offer. Food that claims to be fresh, has actually been defrosted out the back ealier.

It was only yesterday that I popped to Sainsbury's for some prawns for lunch, in my haste I grabbed my purchase and ran. Little did I realize until I got home and opened the packet that they had actually gone out of date 4 days earlier and smelt disgusting.

Why were out of date products on the shelf? Little respect or care for the customer. We all deserve more, for our own health and the environment around us.

Andrew Miranda said...

When at first I lived in England years ago I was intrigued with the supermarkets where the stocks were piled high on shelves in rows along aisles and in systematic categorised order. Grocery shopping was a serious matter. I got myself a hard metallic trolley and scowled at the people who dared to get in my way as I klooked at too much choice for milk, bread and other basic needs. I believed that the task on hand was nothing more than a chore that needed to be done in the fastest and most practical manner to get from point A to B in record time to get home quickly with stuff for the house. Then my life changed. My house became a home. My time was taken up by my family and I found appreciation in doing everything for personal appreciation. We would walk along the shops and talk to people and the chore became a pleasure. That's why I prefer the local shops to the supermarkets. We tend to foget that life is not just about functioning on a daily routine.