Easy to take sides in the nation’s store wars

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Perhaps the daftest thing I have heard uttered this year came from the lips of a stranger as we attempted to dance around the holidaying hordes on a distant seafront.

Looking out towards a picturesque Isle of Wight this marketing man’s dream remarked, “I would love to live there but they have no Asda over there. They have everything else but Asda and I can’t do without it.”

It is a tale I have shared with friends and acquaintances in recent days and has garnered many guffaws and prompted a significant number to remark “numpty” or worse. It is the sort of thing that tickles us smug aspirational types - who on earth would consider not living in one our nation’s more desirable areas because they cannot get their weekly fix of breaded mushrooms and curry pizza?

We can laugh all we want - and I did, most heartily - but there is no escaping the fact human beings are creatures of habit, particularly when it comes to feeding and clothing ourselves and loved ones.

And yet supermarket shopping is not something one brags about as many of us prefer the rest of the world to think we spend our weekend sourcing the best corn-fed chickens and feeling up locally-grown marrows. You cannot blame us for taking the easy option as successive governments as well as the majority of town halls have made life straightforward for our retail giants by letting them build seemingly wherever they please.

It is commendable that 20 local councils want to introduce a Tesco Tax, forcing supermarkets to pay an annual levy which would go back to the local high street, which they have been accused of destroying.

It is a nice idea but the knights and lords who occupy boardrooms across the land will ensure it stays as merely an idea. They will continue to sell us two deodorants for the price of one even if our cupboards are bursting full of Lynx and will carry on insulting our intelligence and insisting they do indeed sell local produce when all it really amounts to is three shelves full of over-priced ale tucked away next to the boot polish and batteries.

I was once told of a town which boasted 18 butchers in 1980 and now has one. That is not solely the fault of supermarkets - badly planned town centres and expensive parking are also to blame but supermarkets clearly don’t help.

The best way for you and I to support the high street is to use it.