SUPERMARKETS, one could perhaps argue, are like drugs.
Everyone says they have a negative impact on society but, jeez, when they’re there and they’re available, aren’t they just so... do-able?
I’ve been thinking about this as I watch, from my bedroom window, a new Tesco rise up.
It will be the second one I can see from my flat.
If there was a window in the back wall I’d almost certainly be able to clock a third.
In fact, strictly speaking, if there was a window in the back wall I’d actually be able to clock just what it is the bloke in the adjoining apartment is doing when his partner moans like that but, thin walls and loud neighbours aside, the pertinent thing is, with one or two less obstructions, we’d probably have a third store in our line of vision.
Conclusion? Tesco is everywhere.
But, then, you knew that already, right?
The dominance of the big four supermarkets has been causing concern since forever.
Politicians, cultural commentators and those people you always try and avoid at parties have long raised issue with the growth of a company which takes £1 in every £7 spent in Britain.
It’s not healthy, they say, and – their celery-and-dip-shaped snobbery aside – I guess they’re right.
The big four are too, well, big.
Their dominance means both shoppers and suppliers suffer – the former with poor quality and reduced choice, the latter with contracts which slowly drive them out of business.
Supermarkets kill diversity, create waste and suck an area’s wealth by taking the trade of independent businesses.
This is the big picture.
Except what annoys me about those who talk about big pictures is they never look at the small one.
They don’t get that the detail is important too.
And that detail, for many people, is having somewhere convenient, good value and – significant this – open to buy groceries for the family in between holding down a job and maintaining a home.
Because, make no mistake – my old Nana would have told you straight, even if you don’t believe me – the high street was never this mythical place of plenty.
Its hours were never good for the working and its shelves were never filled for the picky.
Customers shopped there because they had to.
When a better option came along they took it.
If Tesco destroys choice it does so because people have chosen for it to be that way.
And they have chosen thus because the store is good at what it does.
Indeed, it so good that if you type ‘Tesco monopoly’ into Google, the top entry is the store’s own website offering to sell you the board game. Don’t they just have everything covered?
So, for sure, it is annoying my view is being eaten up by their latest outlet – especially these days when, because it is convenient and good value (I stress those), I shop at Castle Market.
But, really, it’s quite simple: Tesco thrives because people like it.
It is a British success story.
Those who say it is bad for the local community may have a small point but they make that most middle class of mistakes: they do not speak for that community, they speak only for themselves.