Food price inflation is bad enough as it is without Blond trying to undermine the competitiveness of the supermarkets, who will inevitably just pass on increased costs to consumers. Blond and Zac are a danger to the affordability of basic needs to consumers with their attempts to foist a Tory form of autarky on us all. If Blond wants to open a grocery store good luck to him, no need to hobble the supermarkets in the process.
The finding of the Competition Commission in 2008 – that the grocery market represents a “good deal for consumers” – has exposed the limitations of our national competition framework. We participate in our economy not just as consumers but as employees, community-members, investors and crucially as owners. As such, competition law must go beyond price-based consideration of consumer interest. It must create and sustain markets and a model of growth that can sustain small owners alongside the big. If instead we continue to be indifferent to ownership, we will continue to be a society without assets, practicing capitalism without capitalists.
- FARMA, the farmers’ market, farm shop and pick-your-own organisation now boasts over 700 members trading through 800 markets and retail outlets across the country.
- Ocado, set out in 2002 to provide high quality food online and is now a listed company – demonstrating again how new entrants to the grocery market can succeed
- And Abel & Cole lead the field in the provision of veg boxes – regular deliveries of fresh, seasonal fruit and veg to the consumer’s home
Main Street is not simply a place of commerce – a shopping centre. Nor is it (as if in some Soviet dream) just a place for formal events and celebrations. It is a place of engagement and co-operation between merchants, consumers and “ancillary actors”. It is alive.
The driver to the success of Main Street isn’t the shop – although to hear us talk about town centres you would think that – it is the relationship we have with that place and the space it provides for the events and activities of our lives. In Bradford, when Pakistan wins at cricket, hundreds of fans head for the local centres. Not to shop but to share their happiness at victory.
Yet we distrust such a use for the spaces of our town centres. Many of us grumble about public drinking, about young people gathering together, about hen parties and stag dos. And we certainly dislike political campaigns and religious promotion (unless of course it’s an official and state-sanctioned occasion) – to the point of complaining about these activities.
To make town centres work we need to start thinking about them differently:
1. Places of performance – planned or otherwise
2. Centres of culture not temples to shopping
3. A locus for excitement and discovery rather than the workaday
4. As venues for communal celebration, sharing and festivity
So rather than beating down the door of John Lewis, Selfridges or some other “iconic” store should we not be finding impresarios to programme and create the framework on which the community's events and occasions – large and small – might be hung? After all we won’t go to Tesco to celebrate when West Ham win the world cup again!