On Tesco and Globalization

posted 24 May 2006

From a recent post on a messageboard I frequent (used with permission):

I hate Tesco with a passion. They got control of the UK food market by building edge of town Superstores in the late 1980’s by bribing Tory councillors. Closed all their in town stores or ran them down to be really so naff that no one wanted to shop there. Pandered to the petrolheads with huge car parks, discounted petrol by adding a bit to grocery products to counterbalance the loss. They then ran Free buses from towns and villages to there new Mega-Extra stores so people were sucked in by the perception of lower prices and greater choice, and stopped using local bakeries and butchers. Then in the late 1990’s they bought the failed village/suburban bakers and butchers and opened Tesco Express/Metro stores which carried such a limited range, you were encouraged to shop for other stuff at the Mega-Extra. At the same time they squeezed money paid to farmers, food producers and imported more goods from overseas where labour is cheaper to exploit and food standards are lower. (Ever wanted to know why Dutch Bacon is cheaper than UK or Irish Produced? look at the way the pigs are clamped into their pens)

At last it seems the government is looking into the practices and pitfalls of out of town shopping. These practices are in no way unique to Tesco, BUT they certaintly are the largest culprits.

This heartfelt rant is pretty typical of the low-grade anti-globalization felt by lots of people. Let's examine it, shall we?

They got control of the UK food market by building edge of town Superstores in the late 1980’s

For this, read: they built large stores in the 80s, in line with global trends towards economies of scale made possible by greater mobility through increased car ownership.

Pandered to the petrolheads with huge car parks

Read: provided parking at these stores.

They then ran Free buses from towns and villages to there new Mega-Extra stores

Read: also catered for those not rich enough to afford a car.

stopped using local bakeries and butchers

Read: made further steps towards economies of scale, making good food more affordable for all.

opened Tesco Express/Metro stores

Read: in line with falling car ownership in inner cities, moved back into smaller shops closer to population centres.

they squeezed money paid to farmers, food producers and imported more goods from overseas where labour is cheaper to exploit

Read: reaped the benefits of globalization, namely even cheaper food and products, not being limited by arbitrary national boundaries.

At last it seems the government is looking into the practices and pitfalls of out of town shopping
Read: is making a populist sop towards Daily Mail readers who complain bitterly about the lack of selection and prices, not noticing that food is much cheaper now than it was 20 years ago. And whom, despite local shops still being very much in evidence, shop at Tesco every Sunday—because it’s cheaper, and they only have to go to one store.
18 comments