Jayne Dawson: Are you happy now, all of you supermarket haters?

Supermarkets are suffering.
Supermarkets are suffering.
0
Have your say

Well now, I think we are in what you might call a be-careful-what you wish-for situation.

For the longest time, the news about supermarkets has been about how bad they are.

Sometimes the story is about residents protesting at plans to put one of the nasty things in their town.

Other times the story is about suppliers protesting about the way they are treated by these big bruisers of the food world.

So we’re used to supermarkets being written about as bad news, as the thugs of the shopping world.

But now those bad boys are being tamed, having their asses whupped, and generally being cut down to size.

The biggest bad boy of all - Tesco - is having the worst of times. It is going to close 43 stores, it has shelved plans for 49 more, and it has plans to axe up to 10,000 jobs.

A combination of bad moves has sent the supermarket right off its trolley.

And it’s not the only one struggling. We have stopped feeling the love for Morrisons, Asda and Sainsburys too.

Meanwhile the cheaper and smaller Aldi and Lidl, stores where respectable people once did not like to be seen, are mopping up the crowds of shoppers spilling out of the Big Four.

There are reasons why we have voted with our feet: some of us are going off the idea of a big, boring weekly shop altogether; all of us are feeling poorer and more in need of cheap food.

But as the big supermarkets get their just desserts, a strange thing is happening - we are starting to miss them.

In those places where Tesco stores were planned and have now been cancelled, there are loud wails of disappointment. Turns out some people were looking forward to shopping there.

I can empathise. In the area where I live, the Tesco Express is the best thing that ever happened - and no, they are not even paying me.

In the towns where stores are being shut down there is general consternation - turns out folks will miss their convenient superstore.

And that’s the thing about supermarkets, isn’t it? They are massively convenient, which is why they took over the world.

It’s okay for the affluent few to pooh-pooh them, to say they ruin traditional high streets, to complain that they are unfair to other traders, to protest that their food is not all ethically sourced, organic and fair to all concerned.

These people can afford their principles, along with their expensive exotic cheeses and their fancy olives and their locally-sourced, hand-reared meats.

The rest of us need our supermarkets.

We need their long opening hours so we can shop after work, and even during the night if we happen to be a shift worker or an insomniac.

We need all the stuff our families require under one roof because we don’t have the time or energy to travel to more than one place.

We need self service because it is faster and easier than queuing to be served by someone else. Believe me it is. You who do not remember life before supermarkets, you wouldn’t want to go back to the days of the “traditional high street”.

Those shops closed for lunch, then they closed for the night at 5pm on the dot, and they ran out of things before you could get there - no huge supply chains for them.

And it wasn’t all cheery chats with rosy-cheeked grocers, either. Shopkeepers could be very slow and very grumpy indeed.

But most of all we need mass-produced, cheap, safe, food.

Supermarkets spread like wildfire from the 1960s onwards for a reason: we loved them, we needed them.

So Tesco is trying to revive its fortunes, the others are trying to turn themselves around too.

Let’s hope they do, because, as some of us are just realising, a good supermarket makes life better, not worse.

HAPPY FAMILY? Kelly says Christmas isnt always a happy family occasion. PIC: PA

Kelly Pegg: Here’s hoping your festive season goes to plan...