There was a time when where you shopped really said something about where you stood in the world.
Back in the neon days of the 1980s the rules were simple: Tesco if times were hard; Sainsbury’s at Christmas; Marks & Sparks if you were well off and drove a British Racing Green Rover and Kwik Save if you were a pensioner or on the dole.
What carrier bag kids carried their football boots in mattered, especially if it was from Iceland – which almost certainly meant grief at playtime and, if you were very unlucky, a Chinese burn. Thankfully those days are gone and shopping in cheaper stores carries much less of a stigma today than it did in the days of mullets and love bites, so much so that Aldi has now overtaken Waitrose as the nation’s sixth biggest supermarket.
At first glance which company is the sixth most successful at selling loo roll and baked beans does not seem that great an accolade but the fact everybody’s favourite German discount chain (sorry, Lidl) now has a larger market share than the Royal warrant bearing, free coffee giving, middle class standard bearers at Waitrose is significant.
It screams ‘We no longer care if people think we are common because we buy brands you have never heard of, we are saving brass.’ Visit any discount supermarket today and you will no longer see a sea of beige folk flooding into the store seconds after getting off the free bus but a car park full of expensive motors belonging to people who have woken up to the fact nobody else really cares where you buy muesli.
For years now the Great British bargain hunter has merrily been jetting across Europe on budget airlines and buying last season’s jeans from brightly lit stores which resemble giant jumble sales but until very recently we had been reluctant to be so frugal when it came to the weekly shop. It might just be that some have had enough of the traditional market leaders – they know who they are – not treating customers properly.
For many the act of traipsing round huge soulless megastores where you can by Spider-Man underpants along with streaky bacon before queuing for 10 minutes has had its day. They would sooner traipse around smaller soulless supermarkets and save at least twenty quid in the process.
Some of us simply cannot do without discount chains – me included. On moving from one end of the country to another 18 months ago I was horrified to learn that we would now be living some 21 miles from the nearest cheap and cheerful shop.
Does that mean that I do not care about the quality of the grub I serve up for my family? No, on the contrary, the money I save on non-perishables can be spent on the slightly dearer but fresher produce at my local butchers, fishmonger and even the farmers’ market.
These days, like many others, I am shopping smarter but now I just don’t care what the neighbours think.