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Published: November 8th 2008
We left Harrogate as Tesco was attempting to relieve the town of its status as the only postcode in England without one of its stores. The battle goes on, as opponents of the store try to understand why a town which already has 4 large supermarkets should have yet another, and one moreover in which more than 30% of all UK grocery spending occurs.
We didn’t expect to find more of the same in Laroque. Here we have a struggling band of small shops, all excelling in providing a personal service to their customers, in particular those without cars, or with limited mobility. Although we have a car, we wouldn’t be without our local grocery, VIVAL, where we can get help, advice, and decent fresh locally sourced foods such as cheeses and wines, where we are known and our custom valued. Admittedly, the shop is a franchise of the Casino group, but the owners are responsible for choosing and sourcing most of the products sold there, and respond to local demand. All the shops struggle because there is an Intermarché just outside town one way, and 2 Hard Discount stores, Lidl and Aldi the other. Worst of all, Intermarché is now allowed to open for 3 hours on Sunday mornings, which has all but wiped out VIVAL’s Sunday trade.
And now we hear that Leader Price, a large low cost supermarket, wants to build on the edge of town. If it opens here, it will undoubtedly kill off all our remaining shops, and probably those few remaining in the surrounding villages.
The tired old arguments about cheap food and local jobs are wheeled out in support of the proposal. These arguments ignore several important points:
- Any jobs created may be at the expense of those who gain their livelihood in the small local shops, and may be part time with limited security
- Money spent in supermarkets is not ploughed back into the local economy but used for the benefit of the supermarket.
- The cheap food promoted by the supermarkets is often only available to those buying in bulk, and certainly only available to those who have the transport to get to the shop in the first place.
- Supermarkets have limited interest in sourcing food locally, but great interest in squeezing suppliers for goods at low cost. Suppliers can only meet these demands by squeezing the pay of their workers, both at home and abroad. Or they can rear animals and crops intensively, which has a negative impact on animal welfare and the health of the land. Only today we were advised in a nearby village that the local spring water which had been drinkable for centuries right up until the 1980s could no longer be considered safe because of pesticide run off from the fields. And we eat those crops……..
- Goods brought from outside the area have to be transported here in great quantities: there is an environmental cost here, as there is in encouraging shoppers to travel to shops in their cars.
We can’t turn the clock back, and busy people want to use supermarkets. But they have that choice already here. Allowing yet another one into our small community will reduce the choice of too many of the rest of us, and leave certain people in our community completely unable to shop.
I’m not sure why I’m posting this blog. It changes nothing. But at least I’ve got it off my chest.
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