There has been an outcry in the media recently about the threatened demise of the local corner shop caused by the expansion of the supermarket network. It is not difficult to visualise the disappearance of the privately owned convenience store – replaced by the “metro” or “express” branch of a large supermarket chain.
People complain that the hub of the community is under threat, much in the same way as they did as the network of petrol stations disappeared. There are now a similar number of filling stations as there were in the early 1900’s when cars were a novelty and few and far between.
But before we point the finger of guilt at supermarkets, the bottom line is these changes are driven by public demand. By you and by me. We want cheaper prices, longer hours. If the demand wasn’t there these commercial projects would fail. The reality is that the high street is constantly changing and will continue to evolve.
It doesn’t stop at retailing. The fact that the banking systems and economies across the world were brought to their knees is blamed on greedy senior bank directors offering loans willy-nilly. Although I broadly concur with that view, as with retail customers, borrowers scrambled to take up these facilities with little serious consideration as to how they would be repaid. We are now paying the price and facing tax increases and public spending cuts.
Public demand can also result in positive changes. For example following a long period when beer was mass-produced by a few giant breweries (which had previously swallowed up local breweries in the 1960’s), there is currently a trend of micro breweries emerging. There is also talk of the giant banks being broken into smaller units. The sad fact is that during these evolutionary processes there are inevitably financial casualties.