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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Letter of the Week: John Batting

Time to revive a once regular feature on this blog: The Letter of the Week.
And the first winner of 2008 is Mr John Batting of Wargrave, Berkshire, England. In his letter to The Daily Telegraph, Mr Batting writes of the damaging effects supermarkets have had on our communities and the danger they pose to France's smaller shops. Regular readers will know that I have long called for a left-right anti-neo-liberal, anti-globalisation alliance, and protecting small, individually owned shops/cafe/bars from the aggressive expansionary tactics of supermarkets and large chains is a good example of a policy that can unite both traditional conservatives and paleo-leftists.

If a letter catches your eye in in the papers this week, whether in Britain or elsewhere, please send it in.

Why small is beautiful when it comes to shopping

SIR - I was saddened to read your article about the threat to France's smaller shop owners (report, April 29) and hope the French do more to stop this erosion of their communities than we did.

The arguments for supermarkets and against small shops must have seemed so compelling that no one stopped to question the long-term benefits; and the idea of greater choice, convenience and lower prices was too enticing to ignore.

What we didn't see, perhaps, was how this would be part of a move that has largely destroyed our smaller towns and villages, as well as an important part of our society.

We are beginning to see that what were supposedly disadvantages of the smaller shop - the inability to buy all your goods in one shop, the need to travel (usually walk) between shops and higher prices - would now be benefits.

Our towns and villages would be more vibrant and with a greater sense of community, we would be healthier with more walking, we would eat more local produce and probably save petrol as well.

John Batting, Wargrave, Berkshire

1 comment:

Roland Hulme said...

A left-right anti-neo-liberal, anti-globalisation alliance? They could call themselves the LRANLAGA.

My parents live in rural France and do shop at the excellent, world-class hypermarches - in France, unlike the UK, each shop tends to stock a majority of locally produced goods, from eggs, cheese and veggies all the way to wines. A good supermarket can actually boost the local economy.

Also, in my parent's village, the local boulingerie has adapted by delivering fresh bread daily (French bread has no preservatives and goes stale within 12 hours, so it's great to get it fresh, first thing, for breakfast) and opens outside 'store hours' to provide goods outside of the supermarket's 9am to 6pm opening times (this is rural France, but such hours, and being shut on Sunday, are common even in Paris, even with supermarkets.)

Hypermarches also provide cheaper food, kept in better conditions and with more choice, which is important in a poor rural area like the one my parents live in. The local shops are generally famous for being popular with 'les anglais' who don't mind paying more for the pleasure of shopping in a 'real' French shop.

The other customers are people who can't get to the supermarkets (not everybody has a car and there aren't that many buses in the area) and it seems wrong that the poorest people, who can't afford to go to a supermarket, end up paying the most for their simple goods.