Does Edinburgh get the kind of Tesco it deserves? I am intrigued to find that old Tesco stories on my blog still attract new comments, curiously some of them are from people who indignantly defend the supermarket but there is an encouraging majority from people who want to support local shops.
Tonight I peered through the window of the old bed shop in Picardy Place which is being fitted up for the new Tesco Express. It’s still a building site but under bright lights you can see a handsome space that might have been all kinds of creative things. Or even a more imaginative kind of supermarket. It’s not so fanciful, take a look at what Tesco does in other parts of the world.
A few years ago Ray and I discovered that shoppers in Prague and Budapest enjoy a distinctly different kind of Tesco experience. Perhaps it has changed now but in 2007 the newly colonial retailer was almost unrecognisable in both cities and not just because of the old communist architecture.
This is the real market but Tesco was selling the same kind of sausage
In Budapest, Europe’s biggest Tesco hypermarket (then run by Yorkshireman Paul Kennedy) stocked an astonishing 90% of local produce. Likewise in Prague – where Tesco occupies a rambling old Soviet department store – the Czech supermarket sells mainly Czech goods. And the busiest part of the store by far is the area selling fresh meat, chickens with heads and feet, fish, cheese and local fruit and veg. The kind of stuff Czech people buy in markets and local shops.
Britain moans about EU regulations but rolls over backwards to accommodate US retailing culture: fast food, heavily packaged and laden with fats and sugars. In the rest of Europe even McDonalds looks and tastes better – Dougal discovered a McDonalds in Bratislava where they served delicious goats cheese salad, long before they decided to offer healthier options in Britain. (Other travellers make equally surprising discoveries)
So I am sure Edinburgh could successfully demand more and better of supermarket chains. The increasingly dysfunctional city council hides behind planning regulations but consumers, Facebook groups and even good old fashioned voters could combine to persuade both retailers and councillors to do things differently. We could start by electing a different council next year.
Meanwhile of course local residents can keep on supporting Broughton Street’s excellent independent shops where we can find almost everything we need.
Központi Vásárcsarnok, the Great Market Hall in Budapest. Wouldn’t it be great to have one of these in Edinburgh? If the City Council wants to mess about with the Assembly Rooms they could at least do it in style…