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Get your act together, crappy local shops – and stop moaning about Tesco

Enough with the whingeing, local shops. The supermarkets are stealing your customers? I don’t think so.

Tesco aren’t rustling up shoppers, plonking economy bin bags over their heads and chucking them in the car boot. Nor are they tossing them in a trolley and rushing it wonky wheeled into the store, gleefully cackling “we have ways of making you buy one get one free”.

Nope. Wake up and smell the instore bakery, little guys. We weren’t stolen from you, we left of our own accord. One look at the average mini-mart, and it’s not hard to see why. Given the choice between a crappy corner shop with yellowing broccoli languishing next to tins of spaghetti hoops and a bright, dynamic supermarket with decent quality fresh produce and a choice of pasta, we took the better option.

So, corner shop, ditch the lazy defeatism. Chuck out the wrinkled apples and half-rotten cucumbers. Better to have no fresh produce at all than depress us with that rubbish. And stop blaming your failure on the old we-can’t-compete-on-price excuse. Supermarkets are cheap, yes. But at the Waitrose end, where many corner shops should be targeting, not that cheap.

Our local greengrocer had a plaintive message in its window: “do a shop and compare! We’re cheaper than Sainsbury’s!” I’m quite sure they were less expensive, but they closed at five, the quality was iffy, and the service swung from the gratingly obsequious to the (somewhat preferable) downright surly.

They are now closed, and I wish I were more sorry. Local shops bring much needed diversity to shopping – no one wants to see a bland mono-shopping-culture of vast superstores. There are some great examples, though sadly few (and I’d love to hear about your favourites). At their best they’re a community hub and an outlet for small producers who can’t get into supermarkets.

But to succeed, local shops need to get out of their 1950s time warp. We use supermarkets because they suit us, and because, in the 21st century, most women work. The days when the wife could spend every morning traipsing round the shops buying her husband’s dinner are over. The checkout girl at my local supermarket tells me that the busiest times are between 5pm and 7pm – big surprise, it’s when people come out of work. And that means that the fishmonger up the road which opened from 7am till 4pm on weekdays and until noon on Saturdays was never going to make it in the modern world.

So open later, local shops.  And on Sundays. Please. Ditch the miserable plastic cheddar and stock up with great produce from local suppliers who are too small for the supermarkets to bother with. Give the customers a glass of plonk so that the evening shop is a pleasant passagiata with the neighbours rather than a dismal trolley dash. A bit of local gossip, and it’ll be as good as watching EastEnders, only perhaps with fewer fisticuffs and less prostitution.

Filed in: Health Tips

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