I’m conflicted, in relation to supermarkets. It is, perhaps, culturally impossible to be entirely immune to the nostalgia for parades of local high streets, a local economy of family businesses passed down from generation to generation. Mr Bun the Baker. Mr Green the grocer. Happy Families.
And yet, I frequent supermarkets enough to observe the regulars: often elderly citizens for whom being able to shop without needing to worry about uneven pavements, traffic, wind and rain, perhaps a long hill, means that they can continue to get out of the house. In the good old days, they’d be stuck at home. For them, the supermarket enables, empowers, facilitates gentle physical and mental exercise, social interaction; sociable interaction, too, in the café.
They’re not monsters, the supermarkets, you know. But they do drive change, for good and ill.
So there has been a niggle in my brain for some weeks now. It began with an increase in self-service tills at the check-out. Then, the impending introduction of hand-held tills you take around the store with you...
...And now, the contraction of the shelves, to make room for a subsidiary company to share the floor-space.
There is a move afoot, to reduce costs and to prepare for less on our shelves. Future-proofing, I believe they call it; though a future still defined primarily in economic units.
For people like me, that will be an inconvenience. Undoubtedly, these changes will change how we shop and cook and eat.
For others, it may well have far deeper consequences.
I’m not sure, as yet, how I might respond. For reasons already given, I’m not convinced that boycotting supermarkets in favour of local shopping is the answer; at least, not the full answer. In any case, that works for those who enjoy the privilege of choice, not everyone has. But the niggle is unlikely to go away any time soon.