Community: society and economy

Supermarkets have boomed in the last two decades and they now account for over 80% of all food sold in the UK - this increase has lead to an extreme decrease in variety in local communities. It also has affected local economies; fifty years ago about 50% of every pound spent on food would be returned to the farmers and local community, today, this can be as little as 9%, with supermarkets drain as much as 95% of their takings to shareholders and distant corporations. [1]

Local producers have been pushed out of business by these money hungry companies. There is an obvious pattern emerging, local retailers are struggling to keep hold of their market share. Between 1995 and 2000 more than 30,000 local economic outlets closed in the UK including post offices, pubs and local food shops. This number is increasing ever year.

One study found that 'the problem is not necessarily that too little money flows into a neighbourhood. Rather it is what consumers, public services and businesses do with that money. Too often it is spent on services with no local presence, and so immediately leaves the area'. [2]

Local shops are essential for a healthy community; they provide jobs, they create a community spirit and boost the local economy. So it is up to everyone to play their part to recycle the money within the community...

  1. [1] From a report done by national FoE: http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/reports/local_food_directions.pdf
  2. [2] Bernie Ward & Julie Lewis (2002), Plugging the Leaks for the New Economics Foundation

Trouble on the High Street

All is far from well on the high street.

In 1950, local independent grocery stores had a 58% share of the market, which had plummeted to only 14% by 1990. Multiple retailers, such as supermarkets, had a 20% market share in 1950, which had rocketed to 75% by 1990 [1].

Although UK retail food sales increased from £62,000 million to £76,000 million between 1992 and 1996 [2], the total number of businesses in the grocery trade fell from 65,000 to 55,000, most of which were local specialist outlets such as dairymen, butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers and bakers [3] - in fact, these are now closing down at the rate of 50 per WEEK! [4]


Graph of market share[4]

The main beneficiaries of this increase in retail food sales are supermarkets, but surely when a new superstore opens, jobs are created?

No! Actually, research on behalf of Boots, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury and Tesco has shown that on average 276 jobs are lost to the local community for each superstore that opens![4]

As these superstores are in out-of-town sites, this makes them less accessible to non-car owners. And those that do drive have to drive further - last year Britons clocked up an average of 893 miles per year just driving to supermarkets in their cars! [6]

  1. [1] Nielsen Marketing Research (1994)
  2. [2] Keynote (1997)
  3. [3] Business Monitor, PA 1003
  4. [4] New Economics Foundation (2003), Ghost Town Britain
  5. [5] National Retail Planning Forum (1998) in Monbiot (2000)