When Super Markets Invade

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.

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.