Friday, 24 February 2012

Too few people using The People's Supermarket it seems!


There was a flurry of right-on, luvvie commentary about the People's Supermarket a while back:

Arthur Potts Dawson, the mastermind behind The People's Supermarket, is certainly full of what one might loosely define as organic missionary zeal. A tall, youthful and reasonably optimistic chap who set up the London eco-restaurant Acorn House, (and is vaguely related to Mick Jagger, inter alia), Potts Dawson hopes that once his baby takes off, the likes of Tesco and Asda will be as a bad dream. We will all put in our community service and revel in 1970s-style food bills, while the big boys founder.

This is because in return for washing walls at TPS, you will be eligible for a 10 per cent shopping discount, and the ability to buy about 20 special "People's" foodstuffs at artificially low prices. Ordinary shoppers will be able to use the store, but not access the cheaper prices. Only we cleaners qualify for that. 

Eighteen months later it doesn't seem to be working out for them:

Due to financial difficulties, The People's Supermarket has struggled to keep up with the payment of business rates to Camden Council. The People's Supermarket is a Co-operative and Community Benefit Society and operates for the benefit of its members and the community, not in pursuit of profit. For that reason, we ask that Camden Council continue to support us by allowing for the renegotiation of rate payments. In the absence of such support, The People's Supermarket will become insolvent by March 1st.

So when we're getting all excited about different business models, frothing about mutuals, co-ops, co-production and other such wonders, let's not forget the basic truth about the market! If you don't have enough custom, you don't make enough income and you can't pay your bills. With the result that the cap is waved under the council's nose saying "help us out - we're really good even though we're losing money!"


1 comment:

Bill said...

This is a shame; I had hoped it would be a success but you're quite right to say that if you don't make enough money, you will inevitably go under, regardless of your fine intentions. I don't like supermarkets and try not to use them but the alternative has to be independent businesses who can compete on quality and service, even if this means they will have a largely middle-class clientele. Where I live, we have a Waitrose at the end of the road and a Tesco Express halfway up, but we still have an independent butcher, two bakeries, a deli, a greengrocer and (a bit further away) a fishmonger. All are doing well.

Just one random observation; in England, independent butchers, bakers etc seem to be an endangered species, while in Scotland, every small town seems to have a choice of them, even if there are local supermarkets there as well.