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If these smart, clean convenience stores can bring consistency and quality back to a sector better known for out-of-date biscuits and a flexible attitude to public health, we might just drive out to the edge-of-town barn a bit less often and the halo effect might bring us back to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.