What's wrong with supermarkets? Most of us have become increasingly used to them in recent years, and often don't question why we visit them. Here's a few facts about supermarkets.
In recent decades supermarkets have grabbed 80% of the market share nationwide at the expense of many small local businesses such as bakers, greengrocers and butchers. 25 years ago supermarkets only accounted for 20% of food sales. Anyone who has lived in Dorking for more than a few years will have seen the continuing demise of these establishments at first hand, as in virtually every other town in the country. We now have no greengrocer, only one butcher and baker and nowhere other than the big supermarkets to buy many groceries. Our High Streets up and down the UK are becoming increasingly alike in the phenomenon which has become known as Clone Town Britain.
Although Dorking, still nominally just about a "market town", has a sizable number of national stores in its centre, it also still has a fair proportion of local independent traders, many of whom could go under if a major store (also selling non-food items) were to appear in the town.
In their drive to cut costs, however, the practices of supermarkets have had many negative consequences, some of which need to reversed in the coming decades if Britain is to achieve its target on reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases, as well as many other sustainable practices which it is not in a supermarket chain's interest to observe. Supermarkets transport food enormous distances, encourage their customers to drive long distances to their stores and routinely package their produce in excessive non-biodegradable packaging.
Supermarkets' success is judged entirely by the amount of profit they make; they are not by their nature interested in the quality or the origin of their produce as long as it sells; likewise the well-being of their staff and customers are not primary concerns. The single-minded pursuit of profits by our supermarkets have led to the following consequences:
For all these reasons at least a partial return to locally produced and manufactured food sold in smaller premises than those currently dominating our high streets is in everyone's interest, and is the only realistic aim in the medium to long term if Britain is to return to a sustainable economy.