At long last the silent majority have made themselves heard. Defying the noisy, usually well-heeled oppositionist cliques, some ordinary shoppers are coming out for more supermarkets in their locality (‘Meet the Imbys, 11 August). Why? Because they are fed up with the limited choice, high prices, restricted hours and general inconvenience of relying on small village shops.
The reaction from the standpatters has been swift and predictable. Kenneth Parsons of the Rural Shops Alliance (Letters, 25 August) trots out the familiar argument that locals who vote for a supermarket are myopic and gullible. Well, Mr Parsons, we live in a market economy and, like it or not, consumers vote with their feet.
Does a new supermarket flourish exclusively on the bones of small shops? No - depending on the locality, it can ensure that locals who have hitherto travelled miles to the nearest supermarket can now shop much nearer their own doorstep. If a small specialist shop has a loyal clientele and continues to meet their needs, it will survive.
” If a specialist shop has a loyal clientele it will survive”
In the Berkshire village where we live, we have two Co-ops with a Waitrose 10 minutes in one direction and a big Sainsbury’s a similar distance in the other. Yet we still sustain an excellent local butcher, an organic shop, a cheese shop, newsagent, travel agent and three independent coffee shops, plus others.
Would publishing impact assessments on proposed retail developments change the outcome? Not necessarily. Such assessments are simply someone’s best guess about what will happen in a particular locality if a supermarket is allowed in. To claim, as Parsons does, that it will always predict that existing shops will lose 25% of their trade is nonsense. Even if it did, the actual outcomes would be different. Every locality is unique.
Well, maybe the Localism Act will thwart these ghastly supermarkets by giving local people more influence over planning decisions. Maybe, but only if the right sort of people, in Parsons’ terms, can overcome the “highly professional” supermarket store development teams and their Imby allies.
Not quite the David and Goliath contest it used to be, is it?