28 April 2015 – could this be a new supermarket model?

Paul Mason suggests in the UK Guardian (27 April) that supermarkets could re-jig their current business model by taking radical steps and becoming public benefit corporations. First, this means paying attention to the vital role of their staff; by this, he means giving them the chance to chat with customers (and pass on their knowledge and expertise). Second, they should promote stores  as modern agoras, recognizing them as places where local communities  meet up and chat (especially on Friday nights) – here, he makes comparisons with the lively, social aspects of traditional markets and farmers’ markets. Third – and perhaps this is the most ‘radical’ aspect – get supermarkets to share the data they hold about what we, as individual customers, buy. Paul Mason says  making him confront his intake of  alcohol, calories and protein  would meet ‘a public good’ but, importantly, by aggregating these data anonymously, public health experts could mine it for something much bigger. In this scenario, he also proposes that ‘society could reward supermarkets for achieving local health outcomes’ such as, incentives for not displaying ‘sugar-rich rubbish’.

He concludes by saying:

A supermarket whose relationship with suppliers was no longer oppressive and opaque; and which promoted health, sociability and healthy eating; whose social dynamics became more human; and whose data was managed in the public interest would be a different beast. It might not be very profitable – but then neither is the current model.’

You can read the full article here


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