What will the future impact of these changes be?
There are concerns that the closure of small shops is a one-way street. Once small independent stores shut, there are often insurmountable barriers to getting back into the High Street. It is very
difficult for new businesses to start up. And there are concerns that a tipping point could be reached. Once a certain amount of independent retailers shut, the wholesale industry may no longer be
sustainable, and could collapse.
The knock on effect of this will be further damage to the independent retail sector.
There are concerns about the way supermarket chains gain an advantageover small shops on the High Street. Their size gives them a level of flexibility between store formats and over product pricing, and control of supply chains. Smaller shops do not have this flexibility and control.
There is evidence of the large supermarket chains abusing seller power, through practices such as price flexing and below-cost selling. This could damage independents and smaller chains, and in turn damage consumers. There is also evidence of supermarket chains squeezing suppliers on prices. The larger chains can extract more favourable conditions from suppliers than other types
of retailer can.
Supermarkets don’t sell cheap food, we just think they do – and they’re ruining local economies.
In 1960, small independent retailers had a 60% share of the food retail market. By 2000, their share was reduced to 6% while the multiples share increased to 88%.
With our high streets disappearing and our town centres shrinking, we are losing a focal point for community life and a place for meaningful interaction between people of different classes, cultures, ages and lifestyles. Over half the country now shop in giant superstores.
Most obviously independent food stores close because the ‘under-one-roof’ format of the superstore seems to offer more choice and makes shopping ‘more convenient’, as does free car-parking or
Supermarkets have a totally different atmosphere to your local store. People push their trolleys up the endless anonymous aisles in a trance, and then queue impatiently at the checkout: its hardly a conducive environment to make a meaningful connection with your neighbours or the harried checkout operator.
A job in an independent store is different to one in a supermarket.
At the major supermarkets you may be a ‘colleague’ or an ‘associate’ but you have to conform to the corporate ‘house-style’ – dress and behaviour codes as dictated from HQ. Despite ’employee of the month’ schemes etc, the corporation is not interested in you as an individual but as a money making machine.
Superstores are designed so that the individual employee can shift the maximum number of products per customer visit.
Money spent in a supermarket is spirited away to shareholders and management staff, rather than staying in the community where it has been spent, supporting local businesses and their suppliers.
With no strong attachment to place, the supermarkets can easily use job cuts as a safety net for ensuring profits – unskilled labour is fairly dispensable.
Can you walk to your local grocery store? The siting of supermarkets ‘out-of-town’, has led to a massive dependence on car use for shopping: the distance travelled to shops increased by 60% between 1975 and 1990. Today three quarters of supermarket customers travel by car and food shopping accounts for 5% of all car use.
A typical out-of-town superstore causes £25,000 worth of congestion, pollution and associated damage to the local community every week. Below cost selling on the High Street Supermarkets have overseen the near eradication of small-scale retailing entrepreneurs. Those who survive live in fear of supermarket special offers promoting goods cheaper than an independent retailer can buy from a wholesaler.
Only serious measures to clamp down on persistent below-cost selling or ‘loss leaders’ can halt this. France, Germany, Ireland and Spain already have legislation to prohibit the selling of goods below the price paid by the retailer to the farmer.