This was originally going to be a response to a comment posted on a 2009 post of mine titled “Tesco Boycott“. My response got a little out of hand however so I decided to make it a full post here.
Hi Santoni, thank you for your detailed comment. I had nearly forgotten all about this post! Let me clarify my point a little – I don’t think it is a bad thing to have a surplus of shops (in fact living in a city centre I expect it) but I do think is bad is to have a surplus of one shop. And to go even further in my opinion it is bad to have just one type of shop – supermarkets.
I realise that Tesco and other supermarkets provide a very convenient place to get your shopping done under one roof, especially for a new family. However personally I have always been a fan of smaller, independent shops and living in a city visiting multiple small shops becomes more doable. What I noticed in my area however was that small Tesco shops (and others but especially Tesco) kept popping up all over the place, putting alot of pressure on these smaller shops who struggle to compete with these giants.
I didn’t like the way this was going and was worried that soon enough there wouldn’t be any smaller shops left. I think “one choice is no choice” rings true here and the only way to make my stand was to vote with my feet so I decided to stop shopping at Tesco.
Though it wasn’t soon before I realised that Tesco was not the problem – there are plenty of other supermarkets out there who work the same way and were happy to fill the gap. Tesco just happened to be the ones opening up alot of stores in my area. A couple of years later I decided to see what happened if I stopped going to all supermarket chains!
I wasn’t on a crusade, I just didn’t like the share supermarkets were taking over grocery shopping and wanted to do a little experiment to see what happened if I cut them out of the picture. I read a news article recently which reports that in the UK supermarket chains account for 97.8% of the grocery sector! The thought of being forced to wander the aisles at these brightly light, generic chain stores from lack of choice scared me.
I have to be honest though, the alternative was really tough and if it were not for me being single, self employed and living in a city I don’t think I would have been able to do it. There are so few independent shops around that they are spaced out and visiting multiple locations takes time and planning. I found the experience much more enjoyable and I enjoy chatting with local business owners and producers. I have also found that a lot of the time the produce you get from these independent shops is much better than the supermarkets and often less expensive. I also like the feeling of supporting my local economy – it is also reported that money spent at small, independent shops supports three times the number of jobs than that spent at supermarket chains.
Recently however my experiment has been put on hold. I am currently living in Canada and although the small town where I live does have a couple of independent stores they are too few and far between for me to make this work. Things are very spaced out here and driving to the local “big box” store seems to be the only real choice. So I am currently biting my tongue and visiting the supermarkets along with everyone else. I do however look forward to when I return to the UK and am able to visit the little guys once again… if they are still there that is.