Tag Archives: Tescos

National Lampoon

These Penguins are not going Cheap

These Penguins are not going Cheap

What is the most traditional thing about Bonfire night in these modern times, no, it isn’t a penny for a guy is it?   The last firework has only just faded from the night sky when we have to look with wonder at the next twinkling spectacle, the premiere of all those bloody Christmas ads.

Once upon a time, the Marks & Spencers ad was the trademark of British advertising quality.   But just as their fortunes have dipped on the high street their ad men have also fallen from favour.  John Lewis has reigned supreme recently.  Proper little tear-jerkers;  not only selling the wares but selling us the wonders of the human existence.  Every year they hit the double bullseye of heart and wallet.

But not this year.  I know it is heresy for a nice middle class woman of a certain age to say this but #montythepenguin is a bit meh.  It just doesn’t it do it for me.  Yes, the payoff is wonderful, and yes it is so the-done-thing that there is scant merchandise on view, but I am a little fed up of seeing children who look like they  might have been shipped off as cute little evacuees in flannelette pjs and dressing gowns.  I know nostalgia from Cath Kidston onwards sells home furnishings everywhere but I want to acknowledge the era I live in too instead of looking misty-eyed to a time that didn’t really exist and conveniently brushes under the hand-woven rug, all the repression of those times.  Just watch Masters of Sex to remember how little control women had over their own lives in the 50s.

Nope this year the ad that has caught my eye, that makes me feel most akin to the Christmas experience is the National Lampoon Christmas Vacation parody, the Tescos ad.  I know this has come as one hell of a statement from me, a life long member of the anti-Tesco club (see here for previous musings on the corporate behemoth ).   Their multiple recent financial difficulties do smack of a huge dose of karma to me.  But flipping heck I love their ad.   We are all becoming a nation of Clark Griswalds, creating ever brighter Blackpoolesque illuminations to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus.  Perhaps we are all trying to recreate the wondrous sight of the archangel Gabriel lighting the skies proclaiming the coming of the Messiah or maybe there is a deep-seated desire to be the shiniest star on the street to compensate for being a sheep (or an ox or a third tree from the left) in our school nativity.  But whatever it is, I do love the effects of the lights lifting the gloom of winter.

I do feel guilty criticising St John of the Lewis,  but this year I am saying it.. shove off Monty back to the South Pole with your £95 price tag and hello Tescos’ light show; it’s cheesy, feel-good and doesn’t take itself seriously at all.  Just how it should be.  I shall enjoy your take on Christmas cheer but just don’t expect to see me in aisle 5 of one of your stores any time soon!

Every Little Helps….

I was delighted to read the Labour Party are prepared to tackle, in their words, “the almighty conglomerate” Tescos and are asking the government to deal with the problem of the supermarket’s huge market share, gained at the expense of small retailers, farmers, suppliers and customers.

Even before the global downturn, in those halcyon days when credit was easy, I found pronouncements of Tesco’s pre-tax profits staggeringly large.  Billions of pounds return every year seemed obscene.  News that Tescos took £1 in every £7 in the UK strengthened my resolve not to put my money into their tills.  The practice of squeezing farmers and suppliers just to satisfy the shareholders seemed completely immoral.  Who were these insatiable shareholders who demand year on year increases regardless of the effect it had on everyone else?

It really made me question, for the first time, capitalism; everyone else has to pay just so shareholders get better dividends.  It felt wrong and deeply unfair.  I have since learnt about the John Lewis business model based on Quaker principles.  No-one in the company is allowed to earn more than 80 times the wage of the lowest paid worker.  It feels to our detriment that this did not become standard business practice, imagine the effects it could have had, helping to make our society a more equal one.

It felt as if I was shouting into the wind, a one-woman-losing-battle as friends would proudly tell me about all the deals they had got with their Teso Clubcard points.  But then I heard about the protests in Stokes Croft, Bristol over the opening of a new store, and everything changed.  I wasn’t a lone voice, there were other people who felt exactly the same way as me about Tescos.

The Bristol experience, where Tescos managed to open in an area despite strong local objection, is because the planning permission for change of use was acquired before the property was sold to the supermarket.  This happened in our local area too.  Leeds Halton could not be described as a bohemian area, but it was still a high street that contained plenty of grocery shops, Co-Op, Jack Fultons (discount frozen foods, think Iceland without the advertising budget or own store ranges) and a Lidl.   The Tesco site had previously been a pub and the effects have been very noticeable.  The Co-Op (almost directly opposite the new store) has been decimated, takings down 75%.  It is looking very likely the store will close.  If this is happening in Leeds and Bristol it must be happening all over the country.  There must be a way to prevent these stealth openings.

I know that the big four supermarkets are all guilty of these practices but Tesco is the giant, the far and away market-leader, a would-be monopoly.  It’s as big as Sainsburys and Asda combined.  If we don’t stand up to them now I worry there will be no come back for the high street in a couple of years.

Tescos often defend their actions stating that they provide much-needed jobs to the area, but recent calculations show that there are 276 net job losses (British Planning Retail Forum) due to smaller shops closing within a 7 mile radius of the new supermarket opening because they cannot compete.

I must confess I am swayed by the convenience of the one-stop shop, especially when pressed for time.  My most local shop IS a Sainsburys.  I convince myself  that with their wings at both the National Gallery and British Museum, Sainsburys are doing good, adding to the cultural wealth of the country.  That Sainsburys is a more ethically run company. That for me it is marginally greener.  That it isn’t Tescos.

But I know this is collusion, I should support our high street more.  We all need to, this is something where every single one of us can do our bit.  Support the local butcher or green grocer, ‘every little helps’… cuts both ways.

The Labour opposition minister is looking to Mary Portas as head of the government commissioned review into the future of the high street to bring in a competition test to prevent dominance by one grocery store.  Especially when they are trying to diversify into every area of our lives.  We now have a chance to halt the decline of our high street, to be a nation of shopkeepers once again, not a nation of empty shop fronts.

It is imperative this goes through, because as we have seen time and time again and most recently with Murdoch and News International, when one company dominates, none of us benefits.