First of all, a confession. I shop at Tesco. There, I’ve said it. Though us right-on independent minded types aren’t supposed to, I do. Some days I enjoy going round individual greengrocer’s and bakeries and street markets – and somedays I just can’t be bothered. There it is, the cold hard truth.
So it may be as much my fault as anyone else’s that within two miles of where we live there are 11 Tesco stores of various shapes and sizes, and within Liverpool as a whole, 21. It’s like you can’t move for them round here. Like they’ve somehow engineered for themselves ‘Preferred Retailer’ status with the local council (Surely not?). So it’s hard, in Liverpool, not to shop in Tesco.
But I don’t shop there as much as I used to. And it appears from today’s news of falling profits and alleged financial mismanagement that this is true of many others too. So why?
Well there are the big socially responsible reasons about them being bad for the high street, bad for local traders, driving down the profits of suppliers and being more about shareholders than customers. But they haven’t kept me out of their shops for all those years when, busy with work and knowing there’s more to do that evening to get ready for tomorrow’s, I’d pull up at Tesco and get everything we needed all in one go. They haven’t drowned out the other side of the argument in my head that would say ‘Let’s face it, we’ve changed the way we shop these days and that’s that.’
So why am I amongst the millions of us not shopping so much at Tesco these days?
Well partly the big socially responsible reasons have finally got through to me. Partly the fact that around here independent shops and traders have either kept or got their acts together. But more than even these, I suspect, is the fact that Tesco has begun to bore and annoy me.
I’m bored with their stuff. Bored with the fact that all 21 of their Liverpool stores are selling the same stuff. Bored with the the fact I can walk along the high street of anywhere and find a Tesco selling the same stuff. All laid out, boxed up the same. And no local anywhere. No sense of place. Boring.
And they annoy me too. I’m annoyed with the way any spare plot of land round here will become yet more student housing or yet another Tesco-local, Tesco-metro, Tesco-whatever. Causing increasing outbreaks of Tesco-phobia.
And I’m annoyed that in all of these Tesco things I’m expected to do more and more of the work. While for years I’d be grateful that they were at least providing local employment, now there’s less and less of that because they’re increasingly trying to make us all check out our own stuff. Which is why I’m, increasingly, the unexpected item in the bagging area.
Which is also why, with today’s news of a possible Tesco meltdown it’s hard not to smile.
None of us were too surprised when Woolie’s was an early victim of austerity politics, soon followed by various other retailers whose shops we couldn’t remember going into for years. But Tesco? That shining beacon of uber-capitalism?
It might just happen.
Before finishing though. A word about the people who work there. Yes there are less of them these days because we’re being made to do so much of the work. But some of them are still managing to do great jobs in the middle of all the corporate greed that is their working environment.
For example, in Tesco Allerton Road the other week I noticed some ‘Personal Shopping’ going on. A member of staff walking around slowly with one customer, describing the choices to her, reaching up to the high shelves, carefully filling her trolley. ‘Didn’t realise they’d do that here’ I thought as I passed. Then when I eventually got to the till (yes, they still have some) I found I was behind the same customer. Still being helped with great tenderness by both the woman on the till and her ‘Personal Shopper’ because, as I finally noticed, she was blind.
So I wouldn’t be glad for all of them if Tesco were to melt down. And I’d wish for them better jobs and even better service elsewhere. But we do need a lot less of Tesco in this city and in this country.
Check here to see how infested your own locality is with Tesco. Their handy Store Locator.