21 November 2014 – what happens if the big supermarket dies?

There is an opinion piece in the UK Guardian (20 November) from Simon Jenkins on what happens to the landscape and to regeneration in the high street as people turn away from shopping in big, out of town supermarkets. It is predicted that 90% of any rise in British retail spending by 2016 will be online and he quotes a recent report from Goldman Sachs who say that one in five supermarkets need to close – especially the really big ones. Simon Jenkins discusses how big chains in the UK are dropping plans for out-of-town superstores and goes on to suggest that ‘big supermarkets are dying’ (including in the US). Not only were the impacts of an ‘over-supply’ of out-of-town retail sites on local communities (and in particular, city centres) not thought through with these planning policies, the waste of energy and other environmental pressures associated with building materials and infrastructure was never considered. He argues that ‘smart planning’ should be thinking about the implications of the boom in on-line shopping – he asks, what new mistakes will be made by meeting more and more consumption with every street jammed with home delivery lorries and, instead of out-of-town supermarkets, masses of distribution centres? Simon Jenkins goes on to note the projected growth of supermarket convenience stores and predicts there will be a new role for town and village centres in a post-digital economy that promotes ‘live experience’; we continue to need ‘convenience’ and this includes high street coffee bars etc that are already in place, followed by new growth in ‘market stalls, foodie counters, pop-up shops and junk vendors’. He says that the high street can still supply a framework for ‘a small society’, far below the scanner of the coalition’s big society, but concludes that we have made a mess of trying to bring it back.
You can read the full article here

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