When Super Markets Invade

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Ben Cohen
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by Ben Cohen

George Monbiot on the British Super Store 'Tesco' invading his home town:

I live in the last small corner of Gaul still holding out against the
Romans. In other words, a small market town (Machynlleth, in mid-Wales)
which has yet to be conquered by the superstores. No one expects us to
hold out for much longer. Last month Tesco submitted an application to
subjugate us. It wants to build a store of 27,000 square feet on the
edge of the town centre. This is twice the size of all our grocery
stores put together, and bigger than our tiny settlement – 2,100 souls
– can support. Tesco will prosper here only if other shops close and
customers come from miles away.

The economics of giant super stores moving to small towns is horrific. The typical result is devastation to local trade, and the destruction of community. Writes Monbiot:

This town's tragedy has been precisely foretold. In 1998, the
government commissioned a study of the impact of big stores on market
towns. It found that when a large supermarket is built on the edge of
the centre, other food shops lose between 13% and 50% of their trade.
The result is "the closure of some town centre food retailers;
increases in vacancy levels; and a general decline in the quality of
the environment of the centre". Towns are hit especially hard where
supermarkets "are disproportionately large compared with the size of
the centre". In these cases the superstore becomes the new town centre,
leaving the high street to shrivel.

And that is the inevitable result of laissez faire economics. The big dominate the small, and eventually wipe them out. And apparently, it's 'freedom' in action, and a good thing.