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Dd101 Tma 02

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DD101 TMA 02

Big supermarkets and the power they wield in the modern world is of interest to social scientist as a means of understanding consumer society. The market power and buying power of the four major supermarkets, and their expansion has brought claims and counter claims from pro and anti supermarket factions. This essay describes supermarket power, and using social science concepts, claims and evidence explains both pro and anti supermarket viewpoints.
Consumerism is a way of life in Britain today, and the way people shop has changed, with shopping malls and the big supermarkets taking a large percentage of the profit once enjoyed by local smaller shops. (Kevin Hetherington, 2009, pg.20). For those with more disposable income the brand of trainers they wear, the food they eat, the cars they drive may become a status symbol. Warren Susman believes people buy goods to express their personality, which gives them a sense of self esteem or status, a desired lifestyle to aim for. (Susman 2003,pg.280cited in J Allen 2009). Whilst other sections of society with less disposable income may find themselves excluded. Although of course people do still shop for essentials, shopping has become much more of a leisure pursuit, or pastime, whole television channels are dedicated to shopping, and the after Christmas sales often make the headlines and the national news. Social scientist Zygmunt Bauman describes modern society as the seduced and the repressed. Bauman uses these words to illustrate and convey his concept, of consumer’s being seduced or enticed by the supermarkets, the repressed being those unable to take part either by circumstance or choice. (Zygmunt Bauman,1988 cited in J. Allen .,2009)
There are many views on consumer society, it may very well be that some opt out preferring farmers markets which have become so popular in local areas. Or charity shops can be the “in” place to buy clothes and goods, particularly retro fashion trends.

However supermarkets with their convenient opening hours and well stocked shelves are the big players in today’s consumer society, selling a wide range of items under one roof . “You shop we drop” is one of the slogans that is familiar advertising for Tesco’s supermarket chain. Asda, Sainsburys, and Morrison the big four supermarket retailers each have their own persuasive enticements, special offers, loyalty cards, colourful packaging, organic produce, all designed to draw the consumer into their store. These four supermarket giants “take nearly three out of every four pounds that are spent on food and groceries in the UK” (Bevan 2006 cited in K., Hetherington 2009).,
A supermarket’s power comes from the size of its retailing ability to influence market conditions. Small businesses unable to compete inevitably go out of business. Market power, together with buying power which is the bargaining that takes place between suppliers and their firms is the power of the big supermarkets.(J Allen 2009 pg 66). These giants vie for the power and control of the nations shopping basket, proposing further expansions, and creating competitiveness between suppliers, often keeping profits low for local suppliers. This power brings domination and control, and is seen to be the cause of many small businesses closing, The supermarket’s defend this claim and many form local community partnerships in an effort to gain support for the pro supermarket lobby.(J Allen 2009pg 64).
There are two contrasting views regarding supermarket power, firstly that supermarkets provide choice, regeneration, low prices, and encourage growth. The other view is that supermarkets restrict choice by hollowing out the town centres, and the real price of low cost goods is often due to the exploitation of its workers and suppliers. “The Federation of Small business states that since the year 2000, 7000 local grocers have gone out of business.” (J. Allen 2009 pg 74)

Social Science uses the concept of zero-sum game and positive-sum game to understand this concept of power. (Dennis Wrong 1997 Pg.70 ). It is often claimed that large supermarkets by keeping prices down force the closure of smaller shops and businesses. Local suppliers may also suffer as profit margins become slimmer and the competition stakes higher.. Where the supermarkets gain is offset by the loss to the community and is described as a zero-sum game, simply put one side wins while the other side loses.
The other view uses the positive sum game where choice and availability of fruit, vegetables and a variety of other items from local sources and around the world provide employment for many migrant workers, raising the standard of living, where otherwise no jobs would be available, add up to a benefit for all.

The anti supermarket lobby has gained support over the years, many see the growth of Tesco’s supermarket chain as instrumental in closing local shops and sapping the life of the community. Patrick a small town in Scotland where building a large open all hours Tesco has been proposed, has fought back, forming a group of residents in 2007 called STOP (Stop Tesco Owning Patrick) another group, called ‘All Tomorrow Patricks’ have joined in the campaign urging the community to get involved. The main concern is the life of the town and the small traders that will be lost if the supermarket is developed. Events have been organised to draw attention to the issues which find a voice in the local press. The pro and anti lobby have taken their case to both Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Parliament. The people of Patrick would like to see urban regeneration rather than the proposed Tesco store. (J Allen 2009., pg62). Helen Rimmer (“Evidence in the social sciences”, 2009,) speaks of communities in the UK concerned by growth of supermarket expansion coming together to protest and challenge. This view sees the supermarkets as limiting choice, by the closure of small shops, the butcher, baker and many more local shops serving the community. The Tescopoly Alliance is the leading anti supermarket lobby with connections to other organisations and pressure groups. Tescopoly focus on what it perceives to be negative supermarket behaviour. Andrew Simms one of the leading campaigners, points to the fact that Tesco is a monopoly. However this is in contention by Tesco who say their market is national selling a variety of goods and therefore no one branch holds the monopoly.

A few miles from Patrick is the town of Linwood, who have welcomed the proposal for a large Tesco store, in this community no opposition has been voiced and on the contrary it has been seen as positive action for the community, invigorating a depressed and economically tired area , following the closure of the Peugeot Citroen car plant in the 1980’s. Tesco has plans to redevelop the site, providing jobs for the long term unemployed, and is eager to attract new shops and restaurants to the shopping plaza. The UK government supported by the Undeserved Markets project enthusiastically supports regeneration of this nature, where boarded up derelict buildings can be useful again and provide work in an otherwise depressed area.(J Allen 2009., pg 63).

Supermarkets both provide and limit choice; nevertheless there are strong feelings about the expansion of the big supermarket chains. Large supermarket developments in run down areas can provide jobs and create other retail opportunities. However there is evidence to suggest that choice can be limited with the closure of high street shops which provide a service for those looking for specialist goods or local produce. Opposition can be mobilised at the threat of redevelopment. As in the case of Linwood it was welcomed and viewed as a positive-sum outcome for the town. Both views have validity in light of the evidence.

References (Susman,2003,pg.280’., ‘Material lives’., Taylor. S., Hinchliffe., S., Clarke. J., Bromley. S. (eds )’Making Social Lives’, Milton Keynes, The Open University
Kevin Hetherington, 2009,.’Material lives.,’ Taylor. S., Hinchliffe. S., Clarke. J., Bromley. S. (eds )’Making Social Lives’, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
(Zygmunt Bauman,1988) ‘Material lives’., ’Making Social Lives’, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
(Bevan 2006) ‘Material lives’., ’Making Social Lives’, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
J Allen 2009 pg 66 ‘One stop shopping: the power of supermarkets’, in Taylor. S., Hinchliffe. S., Clarke. J., Bromley. S. (eds )’Making Social Lives’, Milton Keynes, The Open University. ‘Evidence in the social sciences’.2009 Making social lives[Audio CD1] Milton Keynes, The Open University.

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