Sir; Last week’s decision on Sainsbury’s acquisition of Jacksons demonstrates once again the short-term nature of all New Labour’s policy-making.
Much like the pension issue, Anti Social Behaviour Orders, and the ‘traffic light’ proposal for food labelling, the government has again demonstrated its ability to focus on short-term interests and to pander to big business rather than to deal with real issues.
It is no coincidence that Mr Blair prefers the company and deep pockets of Wal-Mart and Tesco, and appoints a ‘Sainsbury’ to the Cabinet, rather than face up to the issue of competition and the erosion of diversity in shopping opportunity on the high street. The result is short-termism of the highest order.
If we really cared about the consumer there would be a desire to maintain a real choice of shopping opportunity, and competitive pressure on the ever more powerful grocery multiples. Independents and others are only asking for a level playing field. We accept that economies of scale exist but object to blatant abuse of buying power which will lead to a loss of consumer choice, and the demise of any semblance of diversity in the high street shopping opportunity where the
lack of food retailers in them is accelerating the process whereby town centres turn into clones of each other.
The independent, with his lower operating costs and lower profit expectations, is well able to give multiples a run for their money given the opportunity.
What they cannot be expected to compete against is abuse of buying power, whether this is used, as it has been historically, in predatory promotional pricing, or in the more sinister and recent activity of overbidding on acquisitions to wipe out the competitive set in convenience retailing.
The sector needs to adopt a more politically astute approach and to present a united front to stand a chance of success. Our opponents have vast lobbying resources - we have right on our side. Can we make it tell?