Thursday, 13 January 2011

The March of the Clones: Sainsbury’s, Tesco et al invade Brighton and Hove

Brighton has always been the kind of place where, when you look along a street, something catches the eye – maybe a quirky individual, maybe a glimpse of the sea. Or one of the interesting shops that give the place a lot of its character. x P1050827 Like Taj, pictured here, from a steamy bus at the Old Steine. Taj is a grocery shop with a huge and eclectic range of fresh and packaged foods on sale. There used to be two. Now there’s just one, seen in the other picture, on Western Road. Plenty to catch the eye, snag the interest, and tease the palate at Taj. x P1050830 I don’t know why the Old Steine Taj is closing. But I do know that the site is due to be occupied by a Sainsbury’s, the tenth in Brighton and Hove. And about a third of mile (a six minute walk) from the latest Sainsbury’s, just opened next to the Clock Tower. What does any of this have to do with not owning a car? Here’s what. As a Sainsbury’s spokesman said, “The new store will be ideally located to serve the area, providing a top-up facility for local people.” Which is another way of saying, if you forget to get anything in your weekly car-borne mega haul from an out-of-town Sainsbury’s (or any other supermarket chain), where you fill the fuel tank with petrol, and the boot with groceries, you can pick it up just round the corner at your handy neighbourhood store: Sainsbury’s (or Tesco, which now controls over 30% of the UK grocery market. Or one of the other chains which, no longer able to do Out-of-Town Big Box, are now switching to Inner-City Small Store). Trevor Freeman, Brighton and Hove branch secretary for the Federation of Small Businesses, was quoted in the Argus, “The supermarket’s decline will probably be alongside that of the car.” So if you’re happy for Brighton and Hove to end up looking like everywhere else in Britain, just keep getting in the car, and shopping at the chain supermarkets. And then, when there isn’t anywhere else to buy food, don’t wonder why you can’t switch to a competitor, because there won’t be any left. So what can you do? Here’s what the New Economics Foundation said in the last version of its Report on Clone Town Britain, “Use them, or lose them”. Residents should put their money where their mouth is and seek out independents and locally sourced products.” What’s not to like about that?

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