Competition shows that people don’t want choice

Excellent work here from the Sage of Downham Market:

And, fifth, and at least as important, there is a rejection of choice in this move. People are overawed by the big supermarket, it seems. I am not surprised, but I would not have assumed my own considerable distaste for them might be more general until the trend had become apparent. The fact is, it seems, that people are actually put off by being presented with too many options and too many alternatives. They have neither the time, nor inclination, to make so many complicated choices and are realising that in far too any cases the cost of choosing is in any case too high: simply assembling the information is an exercise they do not want to undertake. So they go somewhere that has done the job for them by setting a criteria (price) as priority and has an offering set against that sole criteria where limited options are then put to them. People can handle that, and like it.

And thus there should only be one health service, one train company and all the rest.

The outcome of choice means that people don’t want choice. National Food Service here we come…..

85 comments on “Competition shows that people don’t want choice

  1. As good as the great Dr. Clarke’s “who needs all those choices of coffee” post.

    “it seems, that people are actually put off by being presented with too many options and too many alternatives”

    He should get a job working for the Chinese Government Liaison office here in Hong Kong with a line like that!

  2. Aah…so choosing between brands of baked beans is complicated is it?

    That will explain why he thinks It’s impossible to offer sensible tax advice to clients; far too complicated.

  3. So only Lidi and Aldi are selling to the public now. All that all of us want is price.

    Nobody is buying from Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda, Waitrose, etc. nobody.

    When I go to the UK I go to Sainsbury’s or Waitrose for the choice. Seems I am a minority of one.

    I don’t like them, so nobody does! And what profound contempt for us little people! One criteria (price) and ‘people can handle that’. Duhhh! My Dad left school at 16 and he is able to handle the choice.

    I shouldn’t be, given the precedents, but I am amazed.

  4. I can recall a time in the late 70s before supermarkets arrived on our doorstep. Arriving home from the City at the back of six and only a single local store remaining open. It sold tinned sardines and Spam. Even then I stood rooted to the spot, head swivelling from one to the other…lost for choice.

  5. It was only a few years ago that we were being told that Tesco was a unstoppable evil behemoth that would inevitably soon have a monopoly on all our consumption. Or was that Amazon? I’ve kind I of lost track.

    How long before Aldi face the same accusations? I’m betting less than a year.

  6. If I ever invent a time machine I will sell tickets to the 1970s for people who read the Guardian. I might leave the fuckers there, but if I bring them back I expect they will have changed their minds about quite a lot of stuff.

    They live in an invented world, where every B&B had ‘No Irish or Darkies’ signs on it, blokes in shipyards were not overpaid malingerers but heroes of the WC, and every high street was bustling with jolly butchers, the smell of bread and folks with time and the inclination to spend half an hour chatting to each other.

  7. “… they go somewhere that has done the job for them by setting a criteria …”

    Doesn’t like choice, chooses his own grammar rules…

  8. Oh FFS.

    I read the article. He’s still pushing his the-economy-is-a-cup-of-coffee metaphor.

    I don’t know why I put myself through it. I’m not going to learn anything new and I already know that he’s ignorant. It’s just a masochistic distraction in my day.

  9. I will admit that I do not particularly relish having to choose from 20 brands of washing powder and sometimes waste valuable seconds vacillating in the aisle.

    However, it is not a complicated problem. Either close your eyes, reach out your hands and grab one at random, or if you are feeling very sophisticated choose a different one each time until you find one you like and stick to it.

    I am usually to be found on this website sticking up for the left wing but if there’s one thing that makes me want disassociate myself utterly from the gaggle of wet brained boobs that pollute and constitute The Guardian, it is laments about the evils of consumer choice.

    There a personality type who thinks looking for flaws in things conventional thinking endorses, constitutes being clever.

    In fact being smart consists of being able to recognise pro and cons in proportion.

  10. Ahh, socialism.

    Snobbery for the working classes…

    Why be denied a healthy disdain merely because of an accident of birth?

    Oh, and good to see you out and about again Obo.

  11. He states that people are rejecting brands, but obviously Aldi is itself a brand. And the Aldi “own brand” package designs are clearly meant to mimic the leading brands, but are just differentiated enough to avoid legal action. So people do want the brand, but just at a cheaper price.

    I suspect he’s never been in an Aldi in his life.

  12. I’m hearing this message – ‘choice is confusing!’ – a lot lately from the left- wing press. Got a post queued up for today from Mary Dejevsky in (I think) the ‘Indy’ which repeats it.

  13. I know we have quite the geographical spread here amongst the commenteers, maybe you could help out with something I’ve been wondering about.

    Have other countries politicised supermarkets or is this purely a subject of concern for the British left?

  14. The thing about both Lidl and Aldi, is that although they have a relatively smaller choice (I seem to recall the figure being about 1500 SKUs versus upto 150K SKUs at a traditional “big” supermarket), but their single SKU is usually the same quality as the high-end (i.e. “Finest”, “Taste the Difference”, “Extra Special” etc) segment but at prices only slightly higher than the low-end (i.e. “Value”, “Basics”, “Smart Price” etc) segment. Similarly on all the different size variations – a large pack of something at Lidl or Aldi is usually less than the smallest pack of a comparable good at one of the traditional supermarkets. I do still go to the traditional supermarkets for things that I have very firm preferences, and for which the discounters don’t have reliable equivalents.

    To bring this back to the wider issue, if the NHS, schools, councils were providing top-end services at rock-bottom prices^Wtaxes, it’d be very hard for the private sector to get a look-in, and only then for very niche things (e.g. elective cosmetic surgery). The Nordic countries might be in that position, but the UK definitely is not.

  15. I get choice anxiety. Toilet rolls are the worst. Too many variations: number of rolls in pack, number of sheets per roll, always some special offers, trying to remember which brands are abrasive. I end up standing there for twenty minutes, just trying to figure the price out.

    Diet Coke’s getting pretty tricky too. They now sell it in the following sizes: 2l, 1.75l, 1.5l, 1.25l, 1l, 750ml, 500ml, 330ml, 250ml. Talk about price segmentation.

  16. @Luis

    ‘I will admit that I do not particularly relish having to choose from 20 brands of washing powder and sometimes waste valuable seconds vacillating in the aisle.’

    The problem is, you’re assuming that even Murphy takes this seriously as ‘a problem’.

    It’s not a problem for you and me – if I go shopping, my wife tells me what brand to buy (because she does like a choice) and I buy it, or if she forgets to tell me I ring her, or if I haven’t got my phone I buy one that I think I’ve bought before.

    In fact, it’s not a problem for anyone. And he must know that – so what is he really saying?

    When you think about it, he’s actually making an equally stupid but entirely different point about the ownership of the means of production and state power etc.

    @GlenDorran

    ‘Oh FFS. I read the article. He’s still pushing his the-economy-is-a-cup-of-coffee metaphor.’

    Try reading it in Alan Partridge’s voice.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Llp8gkx6k5A

    Actually, they’re near neighbours, aren’t they?

  17. Tim Newman: Trabants for all!

    …but unfortunately not in this five year plan.

    The current plan provides Wartburgs for middle-ranking cadres and Volvos for the nomenklatura.

  18. Anyway, that aside, Jesus, the guy’s such a fuckwit. Can he really not see that he’s writing about how people are choosing to go to a different supermarket?

    It’s a bit like when people tell me that competition in the electricity market clearly hasn’t affected prices because there’s virtually no difference between the prices offered by the different firms. It’s difficult to know where to start addressing such profoundly backwards reasoning.

  19. It’s clear a choice in tax campaigning retired accountants is only adding to all this confusion. Only one is necessary.
    Step forward Murphy Richards. Your monopoly is now official.

  20. “I would not have assumed my own considerable distaste for them”

    I knew it. I just KNEW this WGCE would share the Left’s ridiculous and snobbish hatred of supermarkets.

  21. “I am not surprised, but I would not have assumed my own considerable distaste for them might be more general until the trend had become apparent.”

    Methinks he doth protest too much. He thinks he is the centre of the f*cking universe. His quote makes me feel nauseous.

  22. Julia-

    “The paradox of choice” has been popular for quite some time among “progressives”. Choice allows individualism, and individualism is all kinds of evil full of people doing unpredictable things and indulging their “wants” rather than their “needs”.

    Interested-

    Re the 1970s, aye.

  23. I wonder who does the shopping in his household? I know there are people like DBC Reed who eulogise the 50s but do most people either have the time or inclination these days to wander from butcher to baker to dairy to deli to the small grocery where a chap fetches your purchases for you and wraps them up in brown paper? But the WGCE does not want that. He wants a supermarket with reduced choice and a smaller range of goods for sale. Why would anyone in their right mind want that as the sole choice? Thinking about it, if that is what you want, just move to the Netherlands and try shopping at one of the 2 supermarkets that operate there – Albert Hein or Dick van Dykes. I guarantee you will come running back to Sainsburys, Tesco, Waitrose etc after a month.

  24. The outcome of choice means that people don’t want choice. National Food Service here we come…..

    Women were happier in the 1970s. I wonder if Ritchie will agree with me it is because they have more choices in life now? Before they could get married and have children or …. not much else. Now they can be lawyers and doctors and stuff. It is clearly making them miserable.

    So we need to relieve them of worrying their pretty heads and send them back to the kitchen where they will be happier. Right?

  25. I think John Kay was good on ‘choice’:
    … the value of allowing people to choose their electricity supplier is not so much the direct benefit to the chooser, as the effect of choice on the suppliers between whom the choice is made. Parents, rightly, say that what they want is a good school, not a choice of school. But you do not have to have been brought up in the former Soviet bloc to realise that if you have a choice, it is more likely that the competing outlets between which you can choose are good.
    http://www.johnkay.com/2010/09/01/choice

    Luis,

    I will admit that I do not particularly relish having to choose from 20 brands of washing powder and sometimes waste valuable seconds vacillating in the aisle.

    However, it is not a complicated problem. Either close your eyes, reach out your hands and grab one at random, or if you are feeling very sophisticated choose a different one each time until you find one you like and stick to it.

    Or choose the cheapest in terms of £/kg. For the life of me I can’t tell the difference between own-brand and Persil etc.

    After some experience you can make a mental list along the lines of:

    Products that seem the same no matter the brand: washing powder, washing up liquid, baked beans, bacon
    Products that seem different: tinned chopped tomatoes, sausages, smoked mackerel, toilet paper

  26. @Dan

    Have other countries politicised supermarkets or is this purely a subject of concern for the British left?

    No politicisation here. Twin towns (Oishida/Obanazawa) have four supermarkets to serve a combined population of about 20,000 people. No-one complains about choice.

    Our best supermarket (Oh Ban, two outlets) is a regional rather than national chain and specialises in local region fresh products. Another supermarket buys in all its bento from restaurants in the town.

    The memsahib is happy to shop at both in the same session. It’s all about choice, you see.

  27. Dan, here in Italy the supermarkets do not seem to be politicised.

    Seems to be mostly regional chains rather than national. Fierce competition (there is a serious recession on). A fair amount of local produce on the shelves alongside the big brands.

    The Co-op is big, but again regionally based.

    Other shops tend to be small. The weekly markets do very well.

  28. Oh, yeah, yer Italian wifie, and often her husband, is a county-standard shopper. She wants price and quality at the same time, especially in matters of food.

  29. Meanwhile, back through the looking glass:

    Ritchie’s argument has morphed (doesn’t it always) from ‘too much choice, too complicated’ to ‘ given a choice, people make choices for things they want and don’t really need’ (I think that comment was written on his Mac BTW).

    We just can’t have them doing that because, as the ever reliable Andrew Dickie points out, they’ll only make a “false choice”, choosing things that aren’t good for them. They don’t realise this as they’re making the choice; but he does!!!

    So what we really need is Andrew Dickie to run the rule over our lifestyles and decide for us what the “only real choice” is; tell us what we really want if only we knew it.

  30. Ironman

    You beat me to it – I was wondering when Dickie would wade in saying’ oh for the joys of the former USSR or a trip back to Britain pre 1978′ – what’s depressing is that according to Murphy his interventions are both mark him out as a ‘serious commentator’ and are ‘nuanced’ – what a dreadful pair of individuals.

    Fortunately I think the fallout from the debacle of his posting on the Maugham blog and being unable to control the feedback has been considerable. If he can’t abide criticism on ‘neutral territory’, it shows how weak his position really is.

  31. UKL,

    > Products that seem the same no matter the brand: washing powder, washing up liquid, baked beans, bacon

    You can’t distinguish between different brands of bacon or baked beans? Sir, you have no taste buds.

  32. @VP

    ‘Fortunately I think the fallout from the debacle of his posting on the Maugham blog and being unable to control the feedback has been considerable. If he can’t abide criticism on ‘neutral territory’, it shows how weak his position really is.’

    I’ve just had a very enjoyable five minutes reading that, thanks.

    I love the fact that Murphy has been edited to remove insults.

    Does Maugham not realise that Murphy is the one true moderator?

    eg

    ‘Why not address the question using facts [edited] as I sought to do?’

  33. Well, I’m not a fan of baked beans but I do like bacon. Back bacon all seems like back bacon; streaky bacon all seems like streaky bacon. I don’t recall tasting a difference between value bacon, finest bacon, so-and-so’s bacon etc. Perhaps more grot comes out of the cheaper stuff when you cook it.

    Maybe your perception is affected by the labelling? 😉

  34. > Perhaps more grot comes out of the cheaper stuff when you cook it.

    Yes, much more. Also, maple cured is good.

    Heinz beans really are better than other people’s. Also, whilst most M&S stuff is overrated average food with loads of snobbery value, their ketchup is awesome.

  35. “You can’t distinguish between different brands of bacon or baked beans? Sir, you have no taste buds”

    Of course, if you can tell he difference between the different brands of canned beans it’s probably a good indication of the state of your taste buds.
    Depends if you’ve ever had real beans cooked with pork, * tomatoes, herbs & spices.

    Anyone else remember when Heinz Beans came with a piece of pork in every can? Now their labelled OK for vegetarians, no? How low we’ve sunk

  36. Products that seem the same no matter … bacon

    BACON??!!??

    that is a slam dunk for the craziest thing I have ever seen written on this website and competition is high

  37. “Heinz beans really are better than other people’s. ”

    So I used to think until I tried a can of Branston’s

  38. ukl,

    I might agree with that about organic stuff or even a lot of free range things. But your taste buds are shot if you can’t tell the difference between dry cure bacon and injection cured bacon, or one sort of smoke or another.

  39. Farmfoods do some remarkably good for the price thick cut bacon.

    The cut of bacon is really important. That waffer-thin stuff is tiresome to cooking and disappointing to eat.

    There are very few true “commodity” products, at least at the consumer end of things. Which is yet another way in which Marx went wrong, but that’s another discussion.

  40. But your taste buds are shot if you can’t tell the difference between dry cure bacon and injection cured bacon, or one sort of smoke or another.

    I meant bacon of the same type, like baked beans of the same type – I thought that was clear

    so dry cure bacon isn’t the same as injection cured or smoked or maple cured. Similarly, baked beans in tomato sauce are not the same as baked beans in barbeque sauce or chilli sauce.

  41. UKL seems to be arguing that things which are the same are the same. While this is an admirable declaration of Aristotle, I’m not sure how much use it is to the matter under discussion.

  42. diogenes said: “I wonder who does the shopping in his household? ”

    Of course! It is the state as both parents. Just as male providers have been displaced by the state in many households, this is the same but undermining females. If there is no woman to make the everyday spending decisions the State must do it for us.

  43. Dan: Here in Canada, grocery shopping doesn’t seem politicized beyond those who take pride in the fact that they are financially well off enough to do their shopping at Whole Foods.

    My wife (who is Polish) managed to zoom into a large Polish supermarket with all her favourite European brands. Recently, I have had to visit a Walmart for the first time in a decade to get industrial quantities of nappies and formula (twins!). I was astounded to discover that half the massive store now is groceries.

    So depending on the items we either shop in mega-store (Walmart); specialty supermarkets (Whole Foods and Polish chain); on-line (Amazon) or local market. No problem with the choice question at all.

    When I lived in England, I was actually asked by a neighbour whether I was a Co-op or Tesco shopper. Gave the same answer that I gave that day in the Glasgow pub when asked if I was a Celtics or Ranger fan…”I’m whatever you are!”

  44. Only here, where there’s a large number of Ritchie analysts and expats, could a discussion on a Ritchie post turn into a row about bacon!

  45. “When I lived in England, I was actually asked by a neighbour whether I was a Co-op or Tesco shopper”.

    It’s just bizarre the amount of newspaper space this topic takes up. Purely a chattering class thing – I’ve never heard anyone, ever mention Tesco hegemony, food miles, or other food politics.

    Having said that, my favourite Waitrose moment of all time came when I heard a terribly middle class Dad telling off his horrible little screaming brat “Rufus! Put the pomegranate down!”

  46. “I meant bacon of the same type … dry cure bacon isn’t the same as injection cured”

    phew

  47. Andrew,

    > So I used to think until I tried a can of Branston’s

    Well, yeah. HP are good too. But I think we’re in agreement that there’s a real quality difference.

    Also, non-Kellogg’s cornflakes are just shit.

    UKL,

    > I meant bacon of the same type, like baked beans of the same type – I thought that was clear
    > so dry cure bacon isn’t the same as injection cured or smoked or maple cured. Similarly, baked beans in tomato sauce are not the same as baked beans in barbeque sauce or chilli sauce.

    I’m with Ian here (there’s a rarity). You’re saying that an expensive brand of shrink-wrapped ultra-wafer-thinly sliced injection-cured bacon is indistinguishable from a cheap own brand of shrink-wrapped ultra-wafer-thinly sliced injection-cured bacon. But the point is that there are no expensive brands of shrink-wrapped ultra-wafer-thinly sliced injection-cured bacon, because it’s shit.

    In other news, Irish black pudding is way better than English. Controversial, I know.

  48. Waitrose are so big with the chattering classes that they actually get to look over the plans of new housing developments. Developers will try to get their houses up to Waitrose’s standards so that they can get Waitrose to commit to building a store there, which enables them to charge more for the houses. It’s insane. It’s just a fucking supermarket.

    Dan,

    > Having said that, my favourite Waitrose moment of all time came when I heard a terribly middle class Dad telling off his horrible little screaming brat “Rufus! Put the pomegranate down!”

    Nice.

    I was in the queue at a pet shop and there was a display of cat jewellery — diamante collars etc — near the tills. One of the two boys of the family in front of me started nagging his dad to buy them.

    “Please can we get one of them, please please please please please?”
    “No.”
    “Oh, but why not?”
    “Because we don’t have a cat.”

  49. Squander Two,

    I’m with Ian here (there’s a rarity). You’re saying that an expensive brand of shrink-wrapped ultra-wafer-thinly sliced injection-cured bacon is indistinguishable from a cheap own brand of shrink-wrapped ultra-wafer-thinly sliced injection-cured bacon. But the point is that there are no expensive brands of shrink-wrapped ultra-wafer-thinly sliced injection-cured bacon, because it’s shit.

    Pick one type of bacon that appears in the value, ordinary and premium categories, e.g. plain smoked back bacon – I am saying that I don’t recall tasting a difference. There is a difference in the amount of grot that comes out – you can measure that. But I don’t recall a difference in taste.

    In other news, Irish black pudding is way better than English. Controversial, I know.

    Agreed – the Irish black pudding I’ve tried has tasted better than the English black pudding I’ve tried from the supermarket (I don’t know the provenance of what I’ve tried outside the supermarket).

    I agree with Ian that bacon is important.

  50. The whole anti-supermarkets thing is an issue of status and differentiating from the common herd. What they are saying is that they have both the time and the money to leisurely shop among the delicatessens and specialist small shops WHEN THEY ARE OPEN, i.e. when most of the proles are in work. I am different and superior.

  51. On the subject of bacon, how dare people in other countries criticise British food when, to give just one example, so few of them even HAVE bacon (and eg speck in Germany and lardons in France definitely don’t count).

  52. Celtics or Ranger fan…

    David, you’ve clearly spent too much time among the Moosef*ckers, as you seem to have misplaced the ‘s’ in the above statement.

  53. @Dan

    Here in Hong Kong, more or less all supermarkets are owned by 2 companies which each have low and high-end options. The low-end sells crap for surprisingly high prices and the high end sells decent stuff for staggeringly high prices.

    If any UK supermarket were to open in HK and stock the same range and quality of goods they do at home I would weep with joy while shopping. If they could do this at UK prices i would probably come in the aisles.

  54. In America there are only 2 types of bacon, 2 types of cheese, 3 types of potato and 1 type of beer.

    Just saying.

  55. “They have neither the time, nor inclination, to make so many complicated choices and are realising that in far too any cases the cost of choosing is in any case too high: simply assembling the information is an exercise they do not want to undertake. ”

    Mysupermarket has solved this problem. Technology lets you quickly decide what you want and get it at the lowest market price.

    Richie’s answer to this?

    “People don’t want to catch up with the technology….
    People are overwhelmed by choice. Mysupermarket just makes the whole process so much more onerous”

    Did Richie just miss the last 15 years of UK social and retail development? The whole post has me baffled, it is so full of contradiction.

    Is brandless food meant to equal, supermarket’s own brand products or pork pies from your local deli?

    If it’s supermarket’s own brand then that presumably contradicts his point about buying locally; if it is the local deli then that contradicts his point purchasing based on price.

    Worrying about the authenticity of your food = major first world problem.

  56. @ Rob
    “and specialist small shops WHEN THEY ARE OPEN”

    This grinds my gears, people complain that we don’t shop locally anymore, shopkeepers bemoaning the death of the village high street yet the stupid fuckers only open 9am-5pm. The demise of the local shop correlates with the increasing number of women in work, one doesn’t have to be archimedes to see that the one thing that would improve the chances of local shops is if they were open between 5pm and 8pm.

  57. On the other hand, if you were Archimedes you would realise that the solution is definitely something involving circles.

  58. Ian, I take it you’ve never actually been shopping in the US? Even a mid-size Albertson’s (about the size of a Tesco Express) will have 40 or so different brands of beer, including domestic IPAs, lagers and pilsners plus the usual range of imports (Bass, Carlsberg, Molson, Becks etc.) There’ll be a dozen or so types of bacon, and a wide variety of cheese, including some artesanal varieties in middle-class areas.

    Here, the only intersection politics has with supermarkets is when people go to Panama and Nicaragua and see the exact same products for 1/2 and 1/3 the price, respectively, and then ask who is raking in all the dough, and can we hang them yet.

  59. BiCR,

    I’ve never been anywhere, let alone the USA. I’m the only person at Tim Worstalls, and indeed the only person I know, who has never travelled abroad. In fact, I’ve only visited a few locations in England, and one in Wales. My level of cosmopolitan is roughly equivalent to that of a 17th century peasant.

    Ergo, my knowledge of the rest of the world, and most of Britain, comes from what I’ve heard from other people, and the internet. As a philosophical subjectivist, these are the only facts I consider cautiously proven. As such, the internet says there are two types of cheese in America, and that is the belief I will fight to the death for.

  60. I’m not even familiar with most of Northampton come to think of it. I have no idea where Weston Favell actually is, though I’ve seen it on the buses.

  61. I think this is the first time I have ever thought it appropriate to say to anyone: Ian B, you should get out more.

    However, he is actually correct – there are 2 types of cheese on sale in most US supermarkets. I made this observation even before I lived anywhere close to a Waitrose.

  62. @Ian B In this case ignorance is bliss because Weston Favell contains the most enormous Tescos ,which judging by the car park is suffering the mother of all declines in trade, which I have been long predicting to torrents of abuse from loved up Tesco bores on here.Right wing haters of Europe like you lot are supposed to be in continued rebellion about the sacrifice of the High Street of smaller shops to Europe by Heath’s banning of the UK’s traditional Resale Price Maintenance which ensured shops sold the same goods at the same price (by freely entered into contract).It is Treaty of Rome that kiboshed specialist shops not commercial logic.
    ( I challenge IB to find the delicious Nigerian Guinness that TESCOS WESTONFAVELL does sell.Just not in the drinks section ,naturally.)

  63. I agree with Ian B that the cheese range is limited in the US but…there are ALWAYS about 50 different beers on offer from a range of suppliers. In the UK you have different varieties of pale ale, lager and stout…maybe a German wheat beer or a Belgian beer. In the US you will get a panoply of different beer types from a wide range of suppliers in even the meanest 7-11 at the petrol station.

  64. @DBC
    I’ve read you banging on about the joys of RPM before. Somehow, I don’t think you’re old enough to remember it.
    Under RPM our high street was the province of the old established stores. The only competition amongst them was how surly they could be with customers. They could do this because they were the only stores sold recognisable branded goods. Off high street were the cheaper stores sold stuff you’d never heard of. Pay your money, take your chance. The smaller stores didn’t sell much in the way of branded goods because the manufacturers wouldn’t sell to them. Disturb the cosy relationship they all had together, wouldn’t it?.
    These really were the days where people only had two suits of clothes. What they wore on Sunday & what they wore the rest of the week. They couldn’t afford anything else.
    The end of RPM was also the time fashion got off the pages of the society mags & out of obscure places like Carnaby Street & onto the backs of Steve & Sue.
    Or are you the sort of forelock touching socialist thinks we should all be in flat caps & headscarves & grateful for what we can get?

  65. magnusw,

    “This grinds my gears, people complain that we don’t shop locally anymore, shopkeepers bemoaning the death of the village high street yet the stupid fuckers only open 9am-5pm. The demise of the local shop correlates with the increasing number of women in work, one doesn’t have to be archimedes to see that the one thing that would improve the chances of local shops is if they were open between 5pm and 8pm.”

    Thing is, most of the small shops we lost were actually crappy ones. They were much closer to Arkwright’s shop in Open All Hours than Juliette Binoche’s shop in Chocolat.

    And that’s what we lost, that and quite poor chains like Victoria Wine. What’s left is mostly the artisans. Butchers and wine shops that know their stuff. A wine shop can talk to you about food pairings, get stuff the supermarkets don’t, hold tasting evenings, do things like gift wrapping.

    I’m sensing a slight revival of these sorts of small shops. As we get richer, we have more surplus. Maybe we treat ourselves to a well-hung steak more often.

  66. Surely the principle to apply is that anyone who thinks “criteria” is singular is instantly disqualified from serious consideration? This principle (it goes for “bacteria” too; I’m prepared at a pinch to allow singular “data”, since it is geek-speak, and, of course, singular “physics” and “mathematics” are sanctioned by long but deplorable usage) has served me well for many years.

  67. Re “the politicisation of supermarkets” in the US: yes, for Wal-Mart; and no for everyone else. The place is loathed by the chattering classes and loved by the, erm, weirdos that shop there.

    3 types of cheese: cheddar, which is orange plastic; swiss, which is white plastic with holes in it; and jack, which is sliced plastic to go on burgers.

    Bacon is dominated by different smokes and cures. If they started with a decent lump of pig in the first place it would be a lot better, maybe even edible.

    Avoid any beer with “lite” in the name.

    In fairness, the Safeway a mile down the road has French, Italian and Dutch cheeses, an aisle full of decent wines and beers, but no, absolutely no bacon I want to try again.

    Oh, and four kinds of potatoes: white ones, yellow ones, red ones, and purple ones.

  68. Speaking of shops open 9 to 5 – my parents purchased a fruit & veg shop in the late 70s. Mostly fresh stuff with a few tins, the shop space was probably about 15 foot x 15 foot, with counters taking up some space. We lived above and to the side of the shop.
    People would knock our front door when we were closed (especially on a Sunday when no-one was open back then) for a tin of beans, some potatoes or whatever.
    It was a nice shop, wasn’t great for money and wasn’t great location however. Council knocked it down to build a 3 space car park later.
    It could survive in the late 70s, just. It would not have survived today – too small, too inefficient, not enough footfall and not able to access volume discounts.
    The world moves on and business moves with it, some dropping away as it goes.

  69. @BniS
    I am very, very old and find it difficult to communicate with anybody born into the Thatcherite era when the push to decrease wages and put up house prices got going.
    I am thoroughly familiar with the RPM era High street having worked in Sainsbury’s where all food was delivered fresh daily ,roughly cut up by people like me and sold very quickly.
    One Christmas I remember standing in a shop, ready to lock the door, where every last perishable item was sold on the dot of closing time.The drift to Supermarkets was facilitated by the rise of polythene which could wrap foodstuffs to take rough handling.But Martin Davies who knows a bit about small shops is wrong to put down their decline to progress and the world moving on.It was deliberately socially engineered by Heath and his apparatchiks who had to sacrifice RPM to fulfil EEC entry stipulations.Just to show the world moves on in mysterious ways : RPM was relegalised in the USA by the Leegin case and there is no per se prohibition of RPM in China ( There is in Europe) .

  70. “Martin Davies who knows a bit about small shops is wrong to put down their decline to progress and the world moving on.It was deliberately socially engineered by Heath and his apparatchiks who had to sacrifice RPM to fulfil EEC entry stipulations.Just to show the world moves on in mysterious ways : RPM was relegalised in the USA by the Leegin case and there is no per se prohibition of RPM in China ( There is in Europe) .”
    Maybe Martin Davies & you for that matter, should take a trip over the Channel to France. Try Hazebrouk, for instance. My local shopping town when I’m there. . Large E-LeClerc, Carrefour & Intermarché hypers. Aldi, Lidl, Boucherer. Yet the town center’s got all the small shops you’re telling me don’t exist. Half a dozen boulangerie/pâtisserie. Several bouchers. The shops the Brits don’t have: Charcuterie. Fromagerie. Couple of real ironmongers, despite there being a Bricomart in the area. (And anyone does DIY & hasn’t seen a Bricomart has missed out on paradise. Think Wickes on steroids.) A bookshop. Fish shops. All sorts of clothing & shoe shops. A mid-week market fills the town square
    Are you telling me they’re some sort of optical illusion?,
    If you want to confirm this, it’s only 30 odd km from Calais, so you could do it on a day-trip. Go through St Omer. It’s much the same. Park anywhere you like. There’s not much in the way of parking restrictions & where there are, it’s only a few centimes in the pay & display.
    Maybe there’s a clue there somewhere…

  71. BnIS
    Funny, the merest flick through Google shows that a ding dong battle goes on between French supermarkets and small shops e.g. BBC News:” French shops face supermarket squeeze” Starts “France’s many family owned bakers, butchers and grocers are up in arms over the government’s plans to make it easier to open supermarkets.”
    Strangely this article contains the startling remark ” At the moment (wholesalers) have to offer their products to all retailers at the same price.” RPM lives in France? I think not.
    A more recent story in the New Statesman by Rachel Oliver is more campaigning “Should we follow France in cracking down on supermarkets?”.
    Please do not assume this pro RPM stance is Socialist. In the UK small shopkeepers were pillars of the Liberal Party and then Conservative (they felt betrayed by Heath);in France they had the Poujadist Union of Small Shopkeepers.

  72. The wholesalers thing I didn’t know. Interesting. But certainly not RPM. Shopping in both hypers & magasins tells you that.

    “France’s many family owned bakers, butchers and grocers are up in arms over the government’s plans to make it easier to open supermarkets.”

    This is France, you know. If the French weren’t up in arms about something there’d be emergency medical teams going in to check for pulses.
    But let’s see how much the French government needs to plan to make opening supermarkets easier.
    Hazebrouck – pop 21,396, main line station, serves as dormitory town for the Lille conurbation. As mentioned above, 3 hypers, 3 other chain supers, multitude of small stores & market.
    Haywards Heath (where I’m writing)- pop 22,800, main line station, serves as dormitory town for London.
    1 Sainsbury hyper(For UK definition. Count as half-sized French hyper.), 1 Co-op high st super, 1 Marks & Spencer with limited food section, 1 Tesco ministore, 1 Iceland, 1 99p shop, 8 charity shops, 18 estate agents.
    Now tell me which country has difficulty opening supermarkets.

  73. Oh & amusingly, this entire town has only one baker’s (I don’t count Greggs as they don’t sell anything recognisable as either bread or cakes) It’s owned & run by a Frenchwoman & sells the real thing.

  74. @BnIS
    It might help is you were to use the standard features of written reasoned argument: references to published studies, quotes from independent third parties ;published facts and figures. Any discussion of the principles of RPM is useless without familiarity with Helen Mercer’s LSE paper on the Abolition of Resale Price Maintenance (on Net)
    All this anecdotal stuff is also useless: I do not know Haywards Heath now ,though I used to live in Brighton.
    If you can supply any factual, verifiable third-party evidence of active campaigns to restrict the spread of Supermarkets in UK as there have been in France (evidently), this would be more convincing.

  75. “If you can supply any factual, verifiable third-party evidence of active campaigns to restrict the spread of Supermarkets in UK”

    Which edition of the Guardian would you like me to quote?

    “It might help is you were to use the standard features of written reasoned argument: references to published studies, quotes from independent third parties ;published facts and figures. Any discussion of the principles of RPM is useless without familiarity with Helen Mercer’s LSE paper on the Abolition of Resale Price Maintenance (on Net)”

    Sod that for a lark. I’d simply say anyone who suggested the return of something as blatantly anti-competative as RPM should hit with a stout length of wood & kicked ’til they go soggy.
    The plight of retailers bothers me not one jot…

  76. BnIS
    A pity your hard won reputation as an International Prat about Town prevents you looking too closely at things you reckon to know so much about: there is a feature in today’s Observer about retail competition globally which says that in France “Strict laws on the price of branded goods mean they should not be significantly cheaper in one store than in others as this would constitute ‘unfair competition’ “. In fact it would constitute Resale Price Maintenance which is outlawed by the EU.
    And do try and do something about punctuation and spelling: they do let you down so I’m afraid.

  77. @DBC Spacebar

    ‘And do try and do something about punctuation and spelling: they do let you down so I’m afraid.’

    Fucking hell, my head just exploded.

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