Can't remember what I originally meant to post now!
On Radio 4 this morning they reported the startling news that small shops are seeing an upturn in business - a fairly small upturn (6%) but an upturn none the less.
The presenter seemed strangely amazed by this. They had a guy on who was from some sort of small shop organisation, which my brain keeps trying to tell me was the Trade Federation - fairly sure that can't be right?
Anyway, the chap I can't help thinking of as Trade Federation Guy was a little taken aback to be confronted with the statement that 'small shops are so much more expensive and can't possibly compete with supermarkets on price or convenience'.
He wittered a bit about how small shops can offer some good deals, but to my mind, he missed a major point about smaller shops, which is that because they are smaller, the consumer gets a smaller choice, and therefore, spends less.
Supermarkets are like Howl when he was running his flower shop: they are SO good at selling you things that you end up buying all sorts of stuff that you didn't actually have in mind when you walked in, and often that you didn't need. Other news stories recently have remarked on the amount of food that gets thrown away, and I'm sure this is partly because of this excellence at 'add-on' selling.
Supermarkets are so big that just walking round takes ages, even if you have the strength of mind to go in and only come out with the pint of milk and eggs that you intended, rather than also picking up a rather nice quiche, some strawberries, a pasta salad, cream for the strawberries, some of that new sort of bun, a couple of mugs and what about this new cereal that looks rather interesting?
If you go to a small shop, your chances of coming out of it having spent 5 minutes and less than a tenner inside are much greater, no matter how good the shopkeeper is at picking his stock.
Also, at small shops, one tends to buy ingredients: sugar, flour, milk, butter, rhubarb. If you buy a snack, it's a bag of Quavers, not Exclusive Handmade Kettle Chips. At a supermarket, one is offered a Rhubarb Crumble Surprise in 2 layers of plastic. OK it's quicker, but over time, the difference in price when you are paying for food to be instant really mounts up. Particularly if you bought too much of it and end up chucking some of it away...
I spend a lot less on shopping if I go into the nearest town on a Saturday to shop than I do if I go to a supermarket, simply because I don't end up buying lots of instant food, and I have to think more about what I buy, because I'm going to have to carry it. If I were really pushed for cash, I'd be inclined to cut out supermarket shopping altogether. OK, the supermarket might be 10p cheaper on essentials like - I don't know - clothes washing liquid or toilet paper - but the 10p saving is quickly eliminated by the impulse buy. Possibly this is less true of the strong-willed in shopping. But I'm not one of them.
I'll give you that supermarkets are more convenient, now that they open early and stay open late, or sometimes never close at all, and you can park right next to them but cheaper? Can't see it!