Convenience? This is war

When the supermarkets abandoned the High Street for their out-of-town barns the damage done to local communities and economies was enormous and permanent. Now they’re coming back, this time in smaller premises. They’re challenging a history of second-rate service and poor quality from the crappy convenience chain franchises and they’re going up against the trusted local independents (green grocers, bakers and butchers) again. This time, though, the effect could actually be positive.

The village (everyone calls it a village but it’s a small town, really) that I live in has become a battlefield in the new supermarket war of convenience. The village, population 8,000, now boasts a branch of Budgen’s (a long time convenience player), a Sainsbury’s Local and a Tesco Metro plus a plucky but surely doomed fight-back from an established off-license called Threshers+Food. In our house, we’re wholesale converts to convenience. We haven’t visited a proper supermarket in months.

If these smart, clean convenience stores can bring consistency and quality back to a sector better known for out-of-date biscuits and a flexible attitude to public health, we might just drive out to the edge-of-town barn a bit less often and the halo effect might bring us back to the older, independent retailers next door and round the corner. Could the multiples actually help to revive the High Street by making it respectable to shop there again? I’d like to think so.

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  1. I’m not so sure you know. I converted to “high street” shopping about two years ago – but only because I discovered the concept of “better value – and better quality” – especially for fresh produce (i.e. meat and veg). Our area is surrounded by every one of the big boy supermarkets – and the whole idea of them bringing their prepackaged, nice-looking sweetcorn cobs to the high street at 2 pounds for two cobs when I can get bigger, better tasting ones at 4 cobs for one pound at the fruit and veg shop is not going to bring my footfall in. Having said that – my high street has plenty of choice in terms of fruit/veg/meat traders – so a lot of competition – and a lot of customers much more comfortable with that style of shopping – i.e. very “market” like. The inconvenience of having to strip the leaves off the corn-cobs – or washing and chopping the meat yourself, is not too inconvenient either – and there’s something primally satisfying about having to do that too. Sort of like connecting with your ancestry.

  2. Dream on fella. They’ll strip the high street bare with their poisonous gas packed salads and overly processed meat, veg and overly salted cook and chill foods.

  3. When Sainsbury’s arrived in our High Street, the little shops nearby all reported a positive halo effect – people stopping for milk and bread and newspapers also went next door to the health food shop (how do those guys make a living?) and down the road to the 1-hour photo place. Driving out to the hypermarket was a habit we acquired. No reason why we shouldn’t re-acquire a High Street shopping habit if the mix is improved and the quality is there.

  4. I’m sure that we end up spending more money shopping locally, but the experience is infinitely more enjoyable. I like to pop to the shops each day and decide what to have for dinner there and then, instead of trying to plan a week’s meals in advance, and end up throwing away half the food I buy because I never fancy the food I chose a week before. Plus the kids like to come down to the local shops and they HATE the big supermarkets.

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