THE rapid growth of “local” and “metro” mini-supermarkets is certainly changing the face of Edinburgh, like many other UK cities.
Just a couple of years ago they were more or less confined to the city centre, but today many of the Capital’s suburban high streets boast one, or more, of them opening late into the evening.
There is invariably a great deal of angst whenever a new one opens its doors. The big worry is always that they will force local independent traders out of business.
And there is no doubt that many stores do lose out when the “big boys” move in, because they simply cannot compete on price with the bulk-buying power of the supermarket chains.
No-one wants all local high streets to look the same. A nightmare vision is often painted of “cloned” high streets where there is a Starbucks, Costa, Pret A Manger, Sainsbury’s Local, Tesco Metro, or another instantly recognisable high street name, on every street corner. Visitors to London, which sees most retail trends ahead of the rest of the UK, will realise that is not too far fetched.
But it is just too easy to dismiss the supermarket chains as the voracious destroyers of all that is good on local high streets.
The truth is far more complicated, and often far more positive, than that. In some neighbourhoods, especially where there is already a reasonably strong retail presence, the arrival of a metro supermarket has been a real boon. With more on offer on the local high street, people are more likely to opt against hopping in their car to drive across town to a bigger supermarket, in favour of picking up what they need on their own doorstep. In that sense, they are actually breathing new life into local high streets.
The inescapable fact, though, is that we all shop in supermarkets. But local stores that find a niche, through the high quality of their products and service, can continue to flourish alongside them, too.