The last 50 old ages have seen major alterations in the manner that people buy their nutrient. Fifty old ages ago most people bought their nutrient from markets or specialist nutrient stores, such as greengrocers, meatmans and fishwifes. Today, ?76bn is spent on food markets, and more than 80 per cent goes to supermarkets. These are immense corporations ; Asda Walmart is now the universe ‘s largest company by turnover, while Tesco takes one in every three lbs spent in the UK. This briefing looks at the economic and societal effects of the competitory policies of big supermarket ironss, and the subsequent impacts on local communities in the UK.

The rise of the supermarkets

The characteristic retail mercantile establishment for big supermarket ironss is the superstore, typically more than 25,000 square pess in size. The figure of superstores in the UK rose from 733 to 1,147 between 1990 and 19981. Smaller, independent stores struggle to vie with the purchasing power and aggressive pricing policies of these large supermarkets – in 1995 there were 230,000 Bankss, Post Offices, saloon, grocers, and corner stores in Britain. By 2002 there were 185,000, and it has been projected that there will be merely 140,000 by 20092. The rate of loss of independent stores is increasing – a recent survey by the Institute of Grocery Distribution revealed that 2,157 independent stores went out of concern or became portion of a larger company in 2004, compared with a old one-year norm of around 300 a year.3

During the last 20 old ages, a scope of options to supermarkets have developed, including husbandmans ‘ markets, farm stores, direct gross revenues and bringing strategies. And when added to traditional stores and nutrient markets, there is still a great assortment of ways of purchasing nutrient. But all of this assortment is under menace from the aggressive gross revenues tactics of the large supermarkets.

In add-on, supermarkets are now muscling in on non-food markets such as vesture, electrical goods, books and Cadmiums, every bit good as fiscal and other services, such as pharmaceuticss and exposure development. It is clear that the large supermarkets see these goods and services as cardinal to their continuing enlargement. They are taking to vie straight with the full scope of stores found in our towns and high streets.

Eroding Choice

Supermarkets claim that they provide pick to consumers, but in world they frequently erode existent picks for people: a recent Mintel survey4 of shopping forms commented that “arguably the biggest menace to smaller towns and the high street is increased proviso of convenience points by major food market superstores.” By ruling nutrient gross revenues, they take away the pick to shop in traditional stores such as greengrocers and meatmans ; they make it difficult for new strategies to get down and spread out ; and by aiming non-food stores they could take away the pick to see a booming town Centre. Several companies, in peculiar Sainsbury and Tesco, are besides purchasing up independent convenience shops.

Tesco already controls about 30 per cent of the food market market5, and in countries where it is besides purchasing up convenience shops, its market portion may be even higher6. If this tendency continues, the lone pick available to consumers will be between Tesco or Asda, Sainsbury or Morrison ‘s ; in the worst instances shoppers may merely hold the pick to travel to different size shops of the same concatenation.

Supermarkets provide a ‘one size fits all ‘ solution to retailing, but communities contain a immense diverseness of people with different demands and demands. There are already many different formats for purchasing nutrient ( including but by no agencies limited to ) :

• Traditional specializer shops such as greengrocers, meatmans, fishwifes.

• Local corner stores and convenience shops

• Traditional markets and the newer husbandmans ‘ markets

• Farm stores, pick-your-own and direct gross revenues

• Food co-operatives and box bringing strategies

Supplying echt pick should be about doing proviso for this diverseness, instead than smothering it. Supporting this diverseness besides brings local economic and societal benefits.

But supermarkets can utilize really aggressive tactics to take local rivals. The Proudfoot concatenation in North Yorkshire is a long-established local concern. When Tesco opened a shop in Withernsea, they sent money-off verifiers to local families giving them 40 % nest eggs at Tesco. Ian Proudfoot, proprietor of Proudfoot shops, asked the Office of Fair Trading ( OFT ) to look into, claiming that Tesco was seeking to set him out of concern, but the OFT saw nil incorrect in Tesco ‘s behaviour7. Recent studies suggest they are reiterating this attack in several metropoliss with price reduction offers to clients. Local retail merchants are angry at what they say is an aggressive, anti-competitive tactic8 – even successful concerns can fight to vie against such activities.

Supermarkets are besides progressively traveling into non-food goods, such as apparels, electrical, garden equipment, medical specialties, family goods and so on. The New Economics Foundation has been researching the diminution of all types of independent retail merchants, uncovering the extent of supermarket and concatenation shop coup d’etat of the high street.9 One of the worst towns surveyed had merely one independent store – the remainder were ironss. In contrast Hebden Bridge, in West Yorkshire, has merely three concatenation shops. Their study states that ‘many town Centres… have lost their sense of topographic point and the typical frontages of their high streets ‘ . High streets dominated by ‘identikit concatenation shops ‘ besides have fewer classs of store than towns that have resisted the invasion of concatenation shops and supermarkets.

Impacts on the local economic system

Independent stores are portion of the local economic system and frequently back up their local community. Many independent shops buy their supplies locally, and this can assist the local economic system. A Friends of the Earth survey of local nutrient schemes10 including farm stores, husbandmans ‘ markets, box strategies and community supported agribusiness found that on norm merely over 50 per cent of concern turnover was returned to the local economic system, normally in the signifier of disbursement on local green goods and inputs, staff rewards and money spent at other local stores and concerns. This compares really favorably with supermarkets, which may syphon every bit much as 95 per cent of their returns off from local countries to stockholders and distant corporations11.

• In Hove, Brighton, Tesco opened a big superstore in 2003, and the company claims that this attracted 30,000 new clients. Yet local bargainers feel that they are worse off12. They have seen falls in returns and the new shop Ate up land antecedently used for a auto park, while the shop ‘s ain parking is merely for two hours, giving clients small clip to shop anyplace other than Tesco.

• A survey in Fakenham, found that town-centre nutrient retail merchants experienced a 64 per cent diminution in market portion following the gap of an out-of-town supermarket. The figure of convenience nutrient shops fell from 18 to 13, and the figure of vacant stores rose by 33 % 13

The impact of the closing of local stores can be widely felt, as they frequently exist in a web with other local concerns. A study of tradesmans around the town of Saxmunden in East Suffolk14 was carried out in 1998 when a new Tesco shop was proposed. It found that 67 out of 81 nutrient retail merchants in seven market towns and 19 small towns, using 548 people, predicted they would travel out of concern if the Tesco shop opened. The study reported that this would take to the loss of a farther 295 related local occupations.

And it is improbable this lost local concern will be picked up by supermarkets. It has been estimated that, utilizing a definition of local nutrient as coming from within 30 stat mis of the shop, it is typical for supermarkets to hold merely 1-2 per cent of turnover from local nutrient providers15.

In contrast, Friends of the Earth ‘s survey of local nutrient schemes16 found that most of them sold nutrient straight from their ain land, and where they were unable to make this they were traveling to considerable attempt to beginning locally. 94 per cent of the concerns sourced green goods from within a 30 stat mi radius, and about a one-fourth of them sourced most or all of their nutrient locally.

Edge of Centre superstores

As supermarkets have found it progressively hard to acquire permission for out-of-town superstores, there has been an increasing move towards turn uping them at the border of town Centres. The impacts of such developments are extremely dependent on precisely how and where they are sited.

One Government-commissioned study17 highlighted the instance of a superstore classed by be aftering governments as edge-of-centre, which was really so far off from the chief Centre it was hard to acquire between the two for linked shopping trips. The survey concluded that the current definition of an ‘edge-of-centre ‘ shop as being 200-300m from the Centre ( as used by be aftering governments ) was likely to be excessively broad for smaller market towns.

Ease of entree is besides of import – it ‘s non merely a instance of distance, but besides the manner that entree is laid out and how easy it is for walkers to do their manner from the superstore to the town Centre ; a big route in the manner will discourage many people. The Government survey in fact concluded that “the principle consequence of the new shops was to deviate trade from the town Centre to the edge-of-centre locations”18. Parking limitations in supermarket auto Parkss ( for illustration limitations to two hours ‘ parking ) can besides deter shoppers from sing other stores.

In other words, instead than taking to spin-off shopping, edge-of-centre has the possible to bring forth ‘spin-away ‘ effects, where shopping is drawn off from the bing Centre. Even a survey by a supermarket ( Somerfield ) bears this out. In 1996, their study of 12,000 people making their chief store at a Somerfield shop at 33 sites found that for every lb spent in one of its town Centre shops, an norm of 46 pence was spent at other nearby shops19. But at edge-of-centre shops this linked disbursement more than halved to 21 pence for every lb spent at the supermarket. At out of town locations it fell even further to merely 10 pence.

Bringing in Jobs?

Supermarket companies claim that all these impacts should be overlooked because they are supplying occupations for local people. Tesco and Asda Walmart have been utilizing this statement to derive planning permission for alleged regeneration sites – seting up big superstores in disadvantaged urban countries. Any resistance to the new shop can be rapidly overcome by the promise of occupations in countries where they may be really difficult to come by. For those people who do get away long-run employment for a occupation at a new superstore there is no uncertainty this must be good, but the inquiry is whether there are wider costs. Make the supermarkets truly provide excess occupations?

Supermarkets normally herald programs for new superstores with the claim that they will convey 100s of new occupations. Sing how many new shops have been opened, this should add up to a important addition in employment nationally. But the figures do n’t add up. Supermarkets are really efficient companies, peculiarly when it comes to the productiveness of their staff. One survey, which compared national retail employment between 1991 and 1995 against employment claims made by the supermarkets noted that while food market retail gross revenues grew in that period by 12.3 per cent, food market retail employment did non turn by the same sum – merely 2.7 per cent growth20. So while the concerns grow, Numberss of staff do non turn as fast. As the writer of the survey commented, the “extra occupations have merely evaporated in the competitory process” .

Another manner to look at this inquiry would be to see how many people would be employed if grocery gross revenues were non dominated by supermarkets, but were alternatively in the custodies of smaller food market shops. In 2004, little food market stores had a entire turnover of around ?21 billion and employed more than 500,000 people21. The large supermarket ironss have much bigger gross revenues ( Tesco entirely has a turnover of ?29 billion ) yet they merely employ about 770,000 people22. So the supermarket ironss control more than 80 % of the food market market and yet they employ merely 50 % more staff than little stores. The simple decision is that little stores are better for employment than holding a superstore. Any council desiring to increase local employment would be better off promoting new local nutrient concerns than seeking to pull a supermarket.

Supermarkets have non merely reduced employment, they have besides affected the quality of life for other concern proprietors, for illustration through extended gap hours. A study of working conditions for freelance retail merchants in 200323 found that more than half of tradesmans did non take any vacation at all during the twelvemonth, 67 % said they worked a seven twenty-four hours hebdomad and 68 % were working 12 hr yearss.

Impacts on local people

The loss of local, independent stores can do serious jobs in footings of entree to nutrient, peculiarly for people on lower incomes or those who do n’t hold the usage of a auto. A recent survey24 of shopping wonts found that there is a strong prejudice towards usage of local stores in less flush urban countries, including council estates and multiethnic low-income countries. It besides found that people in these locations were more likely to utilize local stores for their chief shopping. So if local stores near down, the effects are more likely to be felt by those who may already fight to acquire their nutrient each hebdomad.

Another study25 looking at entree and pick for nutrient shopping in Portsmouth found that people on low incomes, including aged occupants, felt that their lives had non been made

easier by the big graduated table development of supermarkets and the loss of local stores. Many felt they had been forced into dependance on supermarkets due to the loss of local stores, while at the same clip the supermarkets did non provide to their demands because they are set up chiefly for flush auto users. The survey found that, because of the loss of local stores, people without a auto had to do particular agreements to make their shopping, including expensive options such as acquiring a cab.

The coup d’etat of convenience shops by supermarkets has besides led to jobs, peculiarly where they have been shuting ‘in-store ‘ station offices, go forthing local communities without easy entree to a station office. This hits the aged and decrepit peculiarly hard. A pensionary in Witney, where the local station office was due to be closed by Tesco commented “I am a pensionary and handicapped and will be in trouble if Cogges Post Office closes…It seems to me that the community is being sacrificed to the God of money”26.

Impacts can besides travel beyond loss of local services – ‘just-in-time ‘ bringing by supermarkets can intend multiple day-to-day visits from supermarket trucks in countries non designed to back up them. A new Tesco Express in Kew, South London, led to bringings geting between 4am and 11pm with attendant noise and traffic break. Following treatments with the council and occupants, Tesco agreed to curtail bringings to between 8.30am and 7pm,27 but has so far failed to honor this agreement28.

And a male parent and girl in Manningtree, Essex, have attempted to acquire an Anti-Social Behaviour Order served on Tesco after going frustrated with noise from infrigidation equipment at a neighboring Tesco Express. The council had already taken out a noise suspension order against the shop, but Tesco has lodged an entreaty, which could be a drawn-out procedure. The male parent commented “While this entreaty is being dealt with my girl and I are virtually unable to go forth Windowss open, utilize the garden and travel approximately our normal day-to-day lives without the invasion of continual noise”29

Submerging out democracy?

“They are excessively large and powerful for us. If we try and deny them, they will appeal, and we can non afford to contend a planning entreaty and lose. If they got costs it could ruin us.”30 John Sweeney, leader of North Norfolk District Council

Supermarkets can utilize aggressive tactics to acquire their ain manner with councils every bit good. On paper, there are frequently evidences for local governments to decline permission for a new supermarket, but supermarket ironss win because they have such big resources at their disposal. Menaces of legal entreaties can scare cash-strapped councils into giving in. In the instance of Sheringham, North Norfolk, Tesco has taken 8 old ages to win blessing against a determined run by local people opposed to the superstore. In other instances, Tesco prepares the land, purchases land and gets understanding with council functionaries good before it seeks be aftering permission, doing it difficult to decline.

‘These cats are professionals and are in for the long draw. They have plentifulness of experience from around the state in winning planning permission – from PR runs in the local imperativeness to planning experts and expensive attorneies. What can we, a clump of amateurs, do to halt them? ‘ A local occupant from Dorset 31

Local people can happen it difficult to do their voices heard or their wants taken into history. In Leyton, East London, many local people wanted a obsolete railroad pace, which after 30 old ages had turned into forest, to be turned into a community woodland32. But the site was really turned into an ASDA superstore, a trade clinched by ASDA with the proviso of ?1million for a new route.

But this does n’t intend that local people ca n’t contend back: many communities have managed to defy superstore applications. For illustration, in Norwich there has been a long run to forestall a new Tesco gap in the Unthank country of the metropolis. The application was late turned down as a consequence of local resistance and the clear grounds that the new shop would hold created traffic and congestion jobs. As local candidates say ; “For many, many grounds we believe that a proposed store would badly cut down the quality of life in an country that we enjoy populating in. Our vicinity is particular and we want to maintain it that way.”33


It is clear that large supermarkets do n’t normally do good neighbors. There are frequently important societal and economic impacts associated with the gap of new supermarkets. But there are plentifulness of things consumers can make to back up their local nutrient economic system and avoid big supermarkets.

• Support local independent retail merchants, and promote them to stock locally produced nutrient.

• Support local nutrient strategies such as husbandmans ‘ markets, box strategies and farm stores.

• Grow your ain fruit and veggies.

• Keep an oculus on local planning proposals and applications and press the council to guarantee retail developments have a full environmental, economic and societal impact appraisal.

But supermarkets must besides be made accountable for their impacts.

• More robust planning policies and determinations are needed to forestall detrimental developments, congestion and conveyance additions and to protect town Centres and high street stores.

• Local governments must take stairss to protect retail diverseness through, for case, local development programs, regeneration, or consideration of rate alleviation for little stores.

• Measurable and adhering marks are required to do supermarkets cut down their waste and conveyance impacts

• A rigorous Code of Practice is needed to guarantee that supermarkets are handling all providers, including husbandmans, reasonably.

• A supermarket watchdog must be created to guarantee that the food market market is runing in the involvements of consumers, husbandmans and little retail merchants.

• There should be a moratorium on any farther amalgamations and coup d’etats until the competition governments have conducted a market survey to see the wider impacts of supermarket power on society and have examined the issue of local competition.

• Corporate answerability statute law should be introduced to do companies accountable for their impacts on communities, workers and the environment worldwide

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