My local paper, The Citizen, has today reported on the opening of a new ASDA in Gloucester and once again ignores the cost to the local economy and quotes industry figures with no critical eye.
“Store manager Russ Elkins said there are still plenty of jobs up for grabs and is encouraging people from the area to apply. “This store has employed 130 from this area, and it will help deliver healthy eating at competitive prices,” he said.”
Well, if the story manager says it…it must be true.
So let’s explore Russ Elkins’ claim: “[ASDA] will help deliver healthy eating”.
In 2005 a report was published that stated that despite improvements, supermarkets were “undermining public health goals” through price deals that “promote unhealthy food”.
In 2008 a report was released showing that supermarkets had doubled the number of promotions on unhealthy foods since 2006. At the time Saranjit Sihota, of the charity Diabetes UK, said: “Increasing the promotion of unhealthy foods in supermarkets clearly fuels the ticking time-bomb of obesity in this country.”
In 2012, a three year study was published that found supermarkets, like ASDA, guilty of “over-promoting fatty and sugary products using special offers and price reductions”.
The trend and sentiment of these reports are damming.
For balance, I tried Googling ‘ASDA healthy eating’ and all that came up were stories on ASDA’s website (you will excuse me if I don’t trust that source) and Daily Mail articles about ASDA’s bagged salads being linked to poisoning cases (again you will excuse me if I don’t trust that source either, but still…not exactly a ringing endorsement).
So, some questions for store manager Russ: Does your supermarket disproportionally promote unhealthy foods through special offers and price discounts? If yes, how would you say this fits with your statement, “[ASDA] will help deliver healthy eating”?
And then secondly, his claim about the store creating jobs.
Again, some questions: How many of the jobs provided will be part-time jobs?
I have read statistics to suggest that about 2/3 of all jobs in supermarket jobs are part-time. Is this reflective of the new store? Then, how many of these jobs will pay the Living Wage – the minimum someone needs to live off?
A report by the Fair Pay Network (FPN) suggested that only 1 in 7 jobs in the big four supermarkets get paid a living wage. Will this be reflective of the new ASDA store?
Lastly, of course, there is the Friends of the Earth report that found that local stores employ more people within a local community than superstores do, concluding, “The simple conclusion is that small shops are better for employment than having a superstore”.
In other words, even if ASDA did offer stable contracts and decent pay, the undeniable conclusion is that less people will be employed in an area because of the opening of a new supermarket.
Russ, do you really believe ASDA has created 130 new jobs…or just taken 200 and minced them into an own-brand 130?
At some point, it would be nice to see a local paper asking store managers these sorts of questions.