In my hometown of Hornchurch in Essex there is a building of great nostalgia to the town that is about to be destroyed by a supermarket giant. The Tower was a building that started off in life in 1935 as a cinema and was then taken over by Odeon and then converted into a bingo hall owned by MECCA Bingo in 1973. Now with the building closed after some considerable time and with the site sold it is going to be demolished.
The building is a beautiful site in Hornchurch town centre and I have seen it shine in all it’s glory during the 17 years that I have lived in Hornchurch. There should have been an opportunity recognised by someone to convert it back into a private cinema. Sadly that has never happened and instead it has been taken over by a budget supermarket – once again – and is to be torn down and turned into, you guessed it, a supermarket.
This is just another example of the corporation giants taking over the small town outlets for their own end. It seems like the supermarket giants Tesco, Morrison, Sainsbury, Morrison, Asda, Lidl and many of the big fast food giants are taking over the premises like a monopoly on the retail market. I am fed up with seeing these stores prop up across the recession blasted shells of outlets. In my neighbouring town of Elm Park, Tesco took over the Woolworths unit, a large corner pub that shut down many years ago became a Sainsbury’s and Costa branch.
The problem with these supermarkets is that they are creating a monopoly that is suppressing new ideas for new businesses which could better help the unemployed. Over the last twenty years they have grown in size to the point of crushing traditional markets and communities. I live next to a historic market town called Romford which has experienced growth that I have witnessed.
It comprises of three shopping centre, one of which was built on the site of an old brewery that dominated the community for 300 years. There is a market place just at the far end of the town centre which has a number of stalls that give a real heart to the community that the malls don’t recognise. I once did an exhibition of Romford Market for a museum that now occupies the brewery’s reception area. Looking back at the exhibition I think that Romford was perhaps the most liveliest and magnificent place in the world.
To beat this monopoly requires action and for that the working classes need to embrace a thirst for enterprise and self-preservation. Supermarkets dominate suppliers and they can dominate their suppliers with their size and wealth. This enables them to underpay them paying less for foods and drinks like milk, cheese, bread, meat, fish and fruit and vegetables.
In the past I have expressed my anger towards the way they insist on the cosmetic standards in produce which makes the farmers throw away vast amounts of edible produce. This is embarrassing and painful for consumers who are already struggling to pay their food bills. Farmers are even feeling the pinch having to overgrow produce and throw away food that some of them are shutting up for good.
According to former Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy the big chains are triumphing over the small markets as ‘they are a reflection of people’s shopping habits changing’. That means that the consumers are going after cheaper foods and drink but the truth is that these supermarkets are doing more harm than good. Friends of the Earth have made a detailed study of the impact on supermarkets in the community. They are bad neighbours promoting their own selfish interests with no regards to the local community. Most of the foods they sell are convenience foods with endless bargains and offers on selected items like dry foods and snacks.
I went on a trip to Romford and tested the differences between the market and the Asda branch. The store in Asda was mostly made up of friendly staff who knew more about the position of the items than the actual value of the items to their customers. Compare that to the stall in the Romford market where I got a good deal on two pieces of fish and was very happy and chatty. The Asda staff to me look like walking signposts and servers rather than happy retailers. I was also able to get some interesting bargains in the market that Asda didn’t have on the fruit.
The one size fits all system that all supermarkets follow contains items that are limited in choice for customers. This is useful value that make traditional shops better because they can more experimental and offer more options. Also they have better values for suppliers because they are honest and appreciative of the farmer’s hard work and dedication to quality.
There are some good opportunities for development in this that can break the monopoly on the supermarkets. In Romford there is a large market hall with its outlets occupied not by big chains, but local market stores run by local entrepeneurs. These are some very good places to socialise and they have a more warm hearted feel to them that the food court in an out of town mall can’t provide.
Instead of a supermarket we should give planning permission to create indoor microunits with each one hosting a counter of some kind like a fishmongers, butchers, record store, bakers, clothes and shoe store, etc. It can be a place where people can set up their own businesses to set themselves up without the need for government welfare. In developing countries this kind of business model is actively played.
But here in Britain when you consider the case of the unemployed struggling to find a job they seem to wallow in looking for something to do. They should be encouraged to make something happen for themselves by setting up a business. If you can’t find work, create a workplace for yourself.
So to all the jobseekers out there I would encourage you to make something for yourself if there are no opportunities for you. At least that way we can beat the big giants of retail. Besides we can’t rely on them forever. During the 2008 Great Recession many of the top names disappeared from the high street as a result of the crash. I wondered that when Woolworths went bust where would I get a decent pick and mix. It’s terrifying to think that when the next big crash comes along and Tescos is taken out I hope that someone with good retail aspirations has a new shop to take it’s place. If you rely on one type of shop and that goes bust, where are you going to go for all your vital essentials?