Comment | Supermarkets not a shambles

On being asked to make a direct choice between giving custom to local independent shops or large multinational companies, it seems the natural, moral choice to opt for the former. One can’t imagine the kind of insensitive corporate robot-person who would choose anything but. Pave paradise, put up a Tesco Extra, right?

It’s all well and good if we look at supermarkets as some kind of unwanted inconvenience being forced onto us. But I just can’t help seeing them as a natural progression, which has grown and expanded through commercial success. If nobody shopped at supermarkets, they would immediately have to close. If initially as they expanded into chains people hadn’t found them a convenience, their growth would have been halted. Instead of looking at supermarkets as a lack of choice on our high street, instead we should look at them as the result of a choice that has already been made.

The image of an olden-day town centre filled with bakeries, butchers and book shops is very appealing and nostalgic and would probably look nicer on a calendar than the frontage of Sainsburys. As a History student I can’t fail to be drawn in a little to the nostalgia. However, this image is similar to ones of typewriters or Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone.

The point is that supermarkets work, and they work for one particular reason. Social expectations have changed, meaning that the way we shop has changed. No longer does every man have a wife at home able to spend all day buying mustard for him. Said women now generally have a lot less time for such chores, and this can only be a positive thing. We need our shopping done quickly and at convenient hours, so we can choose to have careers and engage in all these new technological leisure activities that have emerged over the last few decades. More choice of retailers on the high street inevitably means less choice in our lives. Those who refer to the campaigners against supermarkets as ‘liberals’ are missing the point entirely; this act of preservation neglecting modern needs is purely conservative.

No matter how much I like the idea of the old high street, I almost always opt for a supermarket over an independent shop. Everything is in one place and I don’t have to take my earphones out whilst using the self-service checkouts. It’s impersonal, yes, but it’s convenient to my lifestyle and that is also true of many of the other thousands of supermarket-goers.

It’s understandable that many claim supermarket chains don’t quite compare to the personal nature of local shops, but this so-called issue goes a lot deeper than shopping. As a society we’ve learnt to expect everything instantly, in the most convenient way possible. Consumer culture, technology, the modern family model, they all demand it. Whether or not this transformation is positive or negative, the reasons behind supermarket shopping are ingrained into us as a society. Close down the supermarkets and we’ll still have the same mindset. To the nostalgic modern-life haters, I say stop blaming Tesco and start looking at the bigger picture.

Florence Scott

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