Across the country the small retailer is being wiped out. In the whole of Britain there are fewer than 1,000 specialist fishmongers, 7,000 butchers and 4,000 greengrocers, and barely 3,000 independent bakeries. In all these categories, the number of specialists has fallen by 90% since the 1950s, and at least 40% in the last decade alone. They have been driven out by supermarkets, which now sell 97% of our food, with four chains accounting for 76%.
Next to the motor car, nothing else has so radically changed the look and texture of our environment over the last half-century – creating what the New Economics Foundation calls "clone-town Britain" where every high street has the same shops. Next to the motor car, nothing else has so radically changed the look and texture of our environment over the last half-century – creating what the New Economics Foundation calls "clone-town Britain" where every high street has the same shops.
The age of the motor car is responsible for the decline of the small independent retailer with out of town supermarkets and banal retail parks. With peak oil, increasing global competition for diminishing supplies of oil and high oil prices the high octane consumerism of the times will soon become less viable anyway.
In 2011, the predominance of the supermarkets, the proliferation of Tesco Metro's and Sainsbury's Local's is a threat not only to diversity on the high street too ( a buzzword beloved of trendy leftists ) but will diminish the quality of community life as even check out assistants are being replaced by self service machines.
So jobs will be lost and gained or preserved only in the floodlit wastelands of whole deracinated zones of warehouses where produce is imported from around the globe to provide the consumer with out of season fruit and vegetables all year long.This again is oil intensive and environmentally cretinous.
As is the fact that supermarkets are supremely wasteful of so much food that has supposedly passed its "use by date". The wastage of food can be afforded by huge supermarket chains. But it is a colossal waste of food on an overpopulated planet.
Also, the principle of "economies of scale" works not only to entrench large supermarket corporations. Small bakers were put out of business by chains such as the appalling Greggs and Wenzels which offer bleached flour rubbish. Public taste, the pace of life has led to the decline of small retailers.
Britain is a land where depersonalisation, the disconnection between consumers and the natural environment is being accelerated and ultimately the coming epoch of resource conflicts, high oil prices and global instability will put an end to the infinite supermarket growth retail Utopia.
Unfettered "free markets" are not actually free markets if the power behind the oligopolies depend on the role of government, both local and national, genuflecting to the power of large corporations. If they are given tax breaks, as in neoliberal economies in Central Europe, e.g Poland, it is a rigged market.
In Krakow, there are now special buses provided to ferry people to the Tesco there. Small retailers are closing down. Tesco has the unfettered power to achieve this though money power and the collusion of supine politicians who are the middlemen between corporate power and "the people".
There is nothing natural about these distortions of the free market as the level playing field does not exist. Adam Smith was scathing about such distortions and lived in a period when most enterprises depended on family businesses and limited corporations subject to the same rules of competition as others.
Terms such as 'the free market are abstractions if they are not placed in a historical, political and economic context. That's why evidence about the way Tesco and other supermarkets drive out free market competition need to be based on the empirical evidence regarding how they actually operate.