Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Column, November 22, 2005

ON hearing of a battle between Somerfield and Tesco for dominance of a North Wales town you might see little to choose between the contestants.
“A plague on both their houses,” the Shakespearian scholars among you might be tempted to say, if it were not such an appalling analogy.
The Montagues and Capulets at least gave birth to the beautiful couple of Romeo and Juliet.
Tesco and Somerfield cannot lay claim to such beautiful connections, the closest they got to beauty is three for one on the cosmetics aisle.
Instead of Shakespeare we have to look to pantomime for a more apt comparison – two ugly sisters, and they are fighting to win the heart of Prestatyn’s shoppers.
Tesco wants to build a grand store there, Somerfield didn’t want them to and lost a legal battle to stop them.
But Tesco’s plans have been delayed because they need some land owned by Somerfield if they are to proceed.
The dispute is grinding on like a Jarndyce and Jarndyce of planning applications and now Tesco wants the start date to be put back to 2007.
If I were living in Prestatyn I’d be backing Tesco all the way – put it back to 2007, no better still, all the way back to 2012, in fact, why not never come here at all?
Can anyone say that their life has been infinitely improved by the arrival of a supermarket on their doorstep?
I’ll accept that they bring a slew of jobs with them when they arrive in town. Set against that is the fact that the majority are relatively low-paid, low-skilled jobs. And you also have to weigh against them the numbers of jobs lost from shops that have to tighten their belts or close in the face of overwhelming competition.
A truly depressing statistic that came out this year was that one pound in every three that is spent at a supermarket is spent at Tesco. This accounts for the fact that they posted profits of £2bn this year.
“Every little helps” they claim on the advert. How would they know, there’s nothing little about them.
And I know that Tesco, Somerfield and the rest will claim to save you money,. But do they really?
Of course they’ll sell you a tin of beans for less that you would pay at the local shop, but who goes to a supermarket for just a tin of beans. More to the point, who goes to a supermarket for just a tin of beans and manages to come out with just a tin of beans.
They’re not really saving you money if you go in for a tin of beans, but come out with a tin of beans, a pair of jeans and two CDs that you didn’t really need but couldn’t resist at the price they were charging.
And another thing, those loyalty cards they make so much of are a marketing scam. They keep a record of each and every thing you buy and then they target you with more and more offers. Offers that will all, of course, save you money. Except for the money you use to buy them that is.
You might not mind so much if supermarkets just sold groceries, but now they sell you everything from nappies to pension plans – and the Co-Op will even sort out your funeral.
They are a malign influence killing our high streets and convincing us that all our needs can be catered for under one roof.
I haven’t got time to get into their effect on the price of food. But consider how expensive lamb is in supermarkets and how little farmers get paid for it at market. Somewhere in between someone is making a mint out of lamb, and sorry for the unpardonable pun.
Everyone supplying them has to dance to their tune whether it is farmers growing veg in Kenya, or raising sheep in Wales, if their product isn’t up to supermarket standard then they’re scuppered.
They are also a malign influence on the way we shop. Shopping was once a sociable experience, where a relationship was struck up between the shopper and the butcher, baker, fishmonger.
Supermarket shopping is a solitary almost hostile affair to be endured rather than enjoyed. A Saturday morning ordeal spent marching up and down soulless aisles which sell the same no matter which store you are in.
They recruit their celebrities to charm us in whether it’s Jamie Oliver, Prunella Scales or, God help us, Sharon Osbourne. I’m sorry, but just how demented do you have to be to decide where you’ll do your weekly shop on the basis of a recommendation from Ozzy’s missus?
Prestatyn’s economic well-being is depended on the arrival of Tesco, according to the town council. And that is the saddest comment of the lot, that the future of yet another Welsh community is dependent on it becoming yet another town, with yet another Tesco.

“JP” writes in with a few remarks about my column last week, in which I bemoaned plans to extend the national curriculum to newborn children and the headlong rush to shove them into nursery so parents could get back to work.

“My last job was working for the NHS and they had a scheme called Career Break, the employee could take a break for anything from six months to - it was either 5 or 10 years. Of course this would be without pay but the employee would be guaranteed a similar job when they decided to return to work. Out of approximately seven women with children only one took up the option.
“If you ask any woman working whether they would rather be at home looking after the children, the answer might be "yes" but if they are perfectly honest the answer would be "no". It's hard work being a housewife and mother and you can get very bored. A lot of the modern generation are aware of this and hand over the reins to the Grandparents. We haven't got Grandchildren at the moment but I would not want the responsibility of looking after a young child five days a week. Been there done that!
“The opportunities for women in the work place are manifold and quite rightly too. And in my own experience older women in the workplace are valued far more than in the past. That has got to be an improvement even if along the way hard decisions must be taken, it was ever thus.”

INSTEAD of entertaining knee-jerk calls for the return of the death penalty after the murder of PC Sharon Beshenivsky we should note the fact that we are still shocked by such events.
The killing of a police officer is still one of those crimes that causes us all to pause and mark the sacrifice that they make as an unarmed service.
We are still, predominantly, a peaceful people and the reintroduction of the death penalty brings back a barbarity that we did well to consign to history.
To start executing murderers again, no matter how judicially sanctioned, brings us one step closer to the level of those who killed PC Beshenivsky.


Bezzy said...

David, welcome to the 21st ask "Can anyone say that their life has been infinitely improved by the arrival of a supermarket on their doorstep?"...well I was saved a sleepless night by visiting my local 24 hour Tesco to get a pregnancy testing kit - my wife and I celebrated the negative result at 4am with some egg custards (4 for 99p)...hasn't that blown your arguments out of the water, sunshine !!!

Banksy said...

Well that's me scuppered isn't it?

Let's make way for the march of globalisation because it gives numpty a little peace of mind and 24-hour egg custard availability.

elaine said...

I've just finished reading Shopped by Joanna Blythman (amazon link below)
and have ceremonially cut up my loyalty cards - no more!

My flesh is still creeping.
Excellent read.


(linked from the drawing club :))