what’s wrong with tesco

What bit of “NO” do tesco not understand?
A recent radio interview with ex-tesco architect-of profit Sir Terry Leahy, gave an understanding of the man that perhaps could make him less of a dartboard for urban community groups. Basically, his tough-ish Liverpool upbringing convinced him food should be as cheap as possible for everyone.

Fair enough (unless you shop, er, in a price-hiked tesco express…). But the nightscenes in Bristol’s Stokes Croft yesterday – chaotic, drunken, frightening and reckless as they were – will hopefully have tesco pulling up short for once, because the complaint behind the appalling violence still stands.

image : Mark Simmons

what’s wrong
Tesco mostly want to kick in the groin their rivals (sainsburys, asda and morrisons) in the out-of-town superstore war, where many people do their main shop. Again, fair enough – many of us are party to this and it’s not wrong, as long as the sites are well away from town centres.

But Tesco are “like” the Palermo mafia – they also want everyone in town too to pay them for doing very little – from the beleagured local farmers and producers to the single mother who can’t afford the bus fare for the out-of-town trip. Tesco achieve this not through threats of violence but by “bribing” town councils to accept their plans (big corporates are the only ones left who can pay the exorbitant rates councils are now forced to levy).

Very little means just another identikit characterless shopfit, goods lorried-in every day and minimum wage for the part-time staff. Oh – and profits shipped to an overseas low-tax haven – very every little helps, indeed…

“Like” the cosa nostra, sheer avarice and financial brute force drives all this.

Greed, in other words. That’s what’s wrong with tesco.

This blanket introduction of urban identikit mini-stores means the destruction of that coherent focus for communities – the HIgh Street. With tesco muscling-in on every high street in every town and city across the UK, despite local opposition that is often rescinded by planning committees, what little revenue is left for distinctive, characterful local businesses is soaked up by the ironically price-hiked metro/express shop format.

See the Glasgow Partick example at the end of this post

What Mr Leahy has failed to grasp is that far from “attracting people into run-down town centres” – a common tesco PR meme – his business model has significantly changed the texture and uniqueness of the UK’s high streets, making many once-busy town centres assume the boarded-up ghost-town position. Long-established businesses – butcher, baker, candlestick-maker – won’t be coming back. All that will be left are poundshops, charity shops… and tesco (or sainsburys) mini-stores selling a very limited range of goods at inflated prices.

Yes non-competitors like boutiques, florists, hairdressers, cycle shops (and the ever-present greggs, who have done a similar hatchet-job on local bakers) will be there – but it’s just a remnant, and their sustainability in a broken-britain high street will always now be perilous. Shop fronts will continue to be re-developed into another soulless block of anonymous flats and the next generation won’t remember family-owned high street diversity, let alone a sense of community.

the solution
Here’s a bbc R4 programme on what has happened in Sicily. Local producers get to excel at what they do and consumers get the best mediterranean-style food and drink on the planet. The cosa nostro get nothing.

So the answer to tescotown is not insurmountable. All it takes for tescoexpress in Stokes Croft to be closed down is a willingness to simply not shop there.
(note : no bravery against mafia death threats required).

critical shopping against pizzo

image above (cropped, uncredited) from bbc

Previous fromztoa article on tescotown Linwood

tescotown Partick
Glasgow’s distinctive Partick area – and lucrative surrounding west end – is hoatching with Tescos, all within 5 – 20 mins walk of each other (including, but not shown on the map below, waitrose and morrisons mid-size stores and a Sainsbury’s local/petrol station).

Link to the ill-starred and illegal listed-building tesco demolition on now-abandoned tesco glasgow harbour / Partick site – a victory of sorts for local opposition to tesco’s monoculture blitz on Glasgow’s west end.

tescotown Kilbirnie – just to balance the issue
Kilbirnie is a small Ayrshire town that in the 19c thrived around the Glengarnock steelmill and Knox threadmill. Today it is a shadow of what it once was… and yet in the middle of the town is a mid-size Tesco and 24hr petrol station, opened in 2007.

Arguably tesco have rescued the town from complete implosion, as in this instance the independent shops on the main drag closed a long time ago. And for peoplewatching all walks of life, I’ve found tesco Kilbirnie to be a gem.