Tag Archives: ASDA

I look forward to the day when a local newspaper headline reads: “New ASDA opens driving down local jobs and driving obesity levels up”

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.

The Citizen reports:

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.

Rant over!

 

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Filed under Food and Drink, Gloucestershire

Do we need a new ASDA in Stroud?

ASDA is planning a new megastore in Stroud with promises of jobs and greater consumer choice. But is yet another megastore really what the people of Stroud need?

The diverse independent food retail sector in Stroud is part of what makes this Cotswold market town what it is. Stroud boasts an award winning farmers market and a bunch of quality local traders.

It is a unique vibrant exception to the generic supermarket dominated towns that have sprung up across the UK.

Stroud is noteworthy in this respect as it is still fighting against what the New Economics Foundation refers to as, ‘Clone Towns’ – the homogenization of the high street driven by chain stores. The British Independent Retailers Association estimates that 98% of the UK’s £150bn grocery industry is now controlled by just nine stores.

This homogenization has already resulted in out of town Tesco, Sainsbury and Waitrose stores in Stroud. Stroud’s quality, if quirky, independent retail sector is struggling under these conditions but, for now at least, surviving.

It is unclear how it would respond though if  a new ASDA store that is planned for Daniels Industrial Estate on the A46 gets the go ahead.

But what cost will Stroud pay for this new development – is it really as simple as more jobs and more consumer choice?

The first point to make is the, ‘we are losing part of what makes Stroud special’ argument. This argument says that we value something more than profit and three quid chickens and that a sense of community and creativity which is currently created by the craft food retailers found in Stroud’s bustling independent shops is something worth protecting.

The second point to make is to ask if another new supermarket is really good for the consumer’s wallet and choice of produce.

Taking the issue of choice first, you have to ask why there is so little local produce available in supermarkets. If I want to choose to buy fresh locally grown produce, this is often close to impossible in big supermarket retailers. Why? Because this is not what profit dictates, we know that supermarkets stock food for appearance, longevity and value, not for the things I value like taste or seasonality.

So even if supermarkets offer a wide range of choice around the colour of different washing up-liquids on or the colours of toothbrushes, it does not offer me the choice that I want – good, tasty, locally produced food.

Then there is the issue of cost. Isn’t it good for consumers and the poorest that we have access to three quid chickens? Aren’t independents just for the liberal middle-classes? To a degree this holds weight, but again only so if we see ourselves as nothing more than consumers.

We can see that when supermarkets come to town, local businesses beyond the retail sector also start to suffer. Money starts to leak out of local economies into multi-nationals with no steak or interest in re-investing into what most people think to be important – local businesses (or put another way, the jobs we all rely on).

Choice is removed from the food retail sector and local wages decrease (either through unemployment of reduced wages and working conditions) and as such the spending power of local communities decrease, which further drives them into the hands of the cheap chicken retailers.

And thus the spiral of poverty is perpetuated by those claiming to be on the poor’s side – the supermarkets. And again let’s be clear about why this is, because profit dictates it.

Of course people shop where the prices are cheaper and the products more consistent, but this takes no account of community cohesion or local employment, let alone the dangers of a monopsony.

So when ASDA comes to Stroud proclaiming 250 new jobs for the area and a greater consumer choice, I want people to seriously consider the New Economics Foundations opening remark:

“We can choose to take action that will lead to thriving, diverse, resilient local economies across the UK; or, we can do nothing and condemn ourselves to bland identikit towns dominated by a few bloated retail behemoths. The choice is ours. “

Read this report and then please do respond to the Stroud/ASDA consultation – the future of the high street might depend on it!

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Filed under Economics, Food and Drink, Gloucestershire