Daily Archives: September 13, 2008

Local vs British

For an ex-mining market town, our local town is full of life. It has two green grocers, four butchers, two chemists, two florists, two DIY/household type shops, a whole food shop and two supermarkets, one a Lidl and the other a Co-op.  

You can pretty much buy anything there you might need, so long as once you’re past the age of about nine you don’t mind wearing second hand clothes from charity shops or paying horribly expensive price for new clothes from the ‘department’ store in the town. You don’t really need to go anywhere else, other than for a change of scene.  

It’s not often that the town centre isn’t busy, and the supermarkets seem to live along side the town centre shops quite happily but that all looks like it’s about to change. For the last ten years Tescos have been trying to build a ‘superstore’ there, at first they tried to get planning permission on a site on the industrial estate. I’m not completely sure of the details of why it was turned down or whether it was on the same scale as the one that they are trying to build now but thankfully it was turned down.  

As what I imagine normally happens in areas where large changes are proposed, there was/still is a lot of debate about if this is a good or bad thing for the town, protest marches were staged by both sides, petitions produced and lots of letters written to the local newspapers. People on both sides do feel very passionate about the subject. The argument for is that it will bring employment to the area, 300 jobs are planned, people will come into the area to shop, the store will help regenerate the town and the two supermarkets that the town currently has are rubbish. The argument against is the proposed store is far to big for the population of the area, it will kill off the small businesses and shops in the town centre and possibly the other two existing supermarkets (the site planned is right next to the Co-op), the traffic will be horrendous, Tescos are in no way community minded and if people want to shop at Tescos they can always use the free bus they provide to get the existing store locally and possibly the biggest reason is this store is planned to sell EVERYTHING, all in one place and that is not a good thing for any town.   

Although the argument against basically hangs on the fact that Tescos are “baddies”, I’m not giving away any prizes for guessing which camp I’m in. The only good part of the plan is that the store would create jobs, the flip side to that is it will be destroying other businesses in the area who also offer employment and honestly if I have to be a shelf stacker or shop assistant I would much prefer that it was in a small business than a facelessly-owned supermarket. I do want to mention, however, that I do sometimes shop at Tescos.

 Any way, that is the long way round to explaining what I’m trying to post about.

With all the above as background, the other day me and mother were out buying vegetables for dinner, we were using one of the green grocers in town and needed carrots, I can’t remember what it was we were having for dinner, I’d gone round picking out the English onions and potatoes but the only carrots that they had were from Spain, we did buy them but I do know that if we’d gone down the road to the Lidl then we could of bought British carrots no problem, they only have British carrots in stock at the moment. We bought them from there because however poor we might be at times we do normally try to buy from the local shops and then whatever can’t be bought from the smaller shops (or is much cheaper) we buy from the supermarkets.

In the ideal world we should be growing our own carrots, the next step away, in my thinking, is buying our carrots from friends, neighbours, etc. then from local shops, then supermarkets, but I’ve never really thought about where the carrots come from in the local shops. Just that it is better to buy from smaller businesses than supermarkets.

I suppose the ideal in that situation is for smaller shops to have local/local-ish/British produce, but when they don’t which one is best? The green grocers is only going to stay there, when and if Tescos get here, if people like me buy the Spanish carrots, which increases demand (OK, a very small demand, I don’t eat that many carrots) but Lidl’s, which sell British carrots, does stand a better chance of staying in the town than the green grocers.

But that still doesn’t answer the question of which is best?