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National demise of Tesco Metro stores might not be so bad after all

PUBLISHED: 21:23 06 August 2019 | UPDATED: 21:23 06 August 2019

Tesco are closing around 150 branches of their Metro stores due to the changing world in which we shop

Tesco are closing around 150 branches of their Metro stores due to the changing world in which we shop

Tesco Metro is shutting stores and cutting staff numbers which, says James Marston, could actually be good for high streets up and down the country

Even when I was a youngster we had things delivered. The bread man used to turn up with various groceries, the daily newspapers - we had two plus a weekly when I was a boy, and when my parents were first married the local butcher included their house on his rounds.

My mum and dad still have a milkman, though they can't get a paper delivered - much to my embarrassment. The various delivery men and women provided a link with the local community, everyone knew who they were, and if someone elderly was not too well it was noticed.

I remember an inquest I reported on as a younger reporter about 15 years ago in which a man had been dead in his flat in a Suffolk town for six weeks.

Six weeks - in the summer.

The police description of the scene was, back then, unable to pass the breakfast test - it was too disagreeable to be published in my article so I left it out in the copy and even today I'm not going to share with you what I recall. Nonetheless, I've never forgotten it.

It's hard to imagine how this can happen isn't it? Surely in a developed western country something like this is unimaginable. I'm afraid it clearly isn't.

We are often told we live in a connected world where everyone communicates much faster and better than ever before - except we don't really do we? All too often we don't know who, let alone how, our neighbours are.

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The news that Tesco might have to shut some of its Tesco Metro stores because - as the company said: "The Metro format was originally designed for larger, weekly shops, but today nearly 70% of customers use them as convenience stores, buying food for that day."

It makes a change from blaming Brexit I suppose but I can't help feeling, perhaps a little unkindly, that it's no less than Tesco deserves. And here I have to admit I am, by inclination, distrustful of big business, especially supermarkets, I don't like them, I suspect their political power is too great, I am perhaps prejudiced but there it is. Though, I'll freely admit, I say one thing and do another and this distrust doesn't, of course, stop me shopping in them.

Nonetheless, as I drove across the county one lovely summer's evening this week I couldn't help noticing the number of village shops which remain shut and boarded up.

Once upon a time almost every village had a little shop of some description - they were a place for people to meet and greet, to exchange news, and above all to foster and build a sense of community. This way of life is in living memory I am sure - and one can see the evidence for this loss particularly in rural areas. I see plenty of old post offices gone, old shops turned into houses, old pubs lost, old schools transformed into smart homes.

We hear much about the current crisis and plight of the high street - though I can't help thinking we all buy far too much stuff as it is - but less so about the plight of our rural communities forced to go into the towns, or the large stores outside of them, to shop for everyday items.

Supermarkets and the rise of them have had a direct impact on our rural communities over the last few decades with the closure of the small shopkeeper unable to keep up with the vast economies of scale and power the likes of Tesco can command. And it seems to me the rise of the supermarket correlated directly with the decline of the small shopkeeper. Just as the rise of the internet is dramatically changing our high streets.

Though I am grateful I knew a kinder world in my childhood I suspect it's too late to turn back the tide - so-called progress has to be made and I am aware I might be looking through a rose tinted lens.

But, nonetheless, this week's news that Tesco cannot make this part of their business pay - was not met by me with unadulterated dismay. I think anything that reduces the enormous power of the supermarkets in this country over the way we live, over our politics, over our food production industry which in our region is so key, might just be no bad thing.

What do you think? Is James right? Or has he missed the point? Write to him at james.marston@hotmail.com

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