Supermarkets vs Local

The joys of shopping locally



12/10/20222 min read

A letter writer in Thursday’s 'Guardian' newspaper reacted to the opening of 300 Asda convenience stores in Britain over the next four years, and the purported creation of 10,000 new jobs. “The truth is,” he wrote “these schemes rarely produce jobs ; rather they tend to transfer jobs from existing local economies and reduce their number.”In France, like Britain, shopping for food has become dominated by a few gigantic supermarket chains. Here, in place of Asda, Tesco and the like, we have Intermarché, SuperU and ELeclerc. And I must confess that is where we do the bulk of our shopping at the moment. It is convenient, and nowadays I order on line and have my ‘courses’ loaded into the back of the car.But what joy to enter a small local food shop , traditional boulangerie or family establishment that has passed between generations. There is a local shop in a nearby village where the vegetables are always fresh and the cheese and charcuterie hails largely from the local area. Although the choice is limited, the quality is far from so. Alas, Covid curtailed our visits as it is very small. We shall return! During past travels I have eulogised over shops that we have discovered where renovation must have been a dirty word. Inside we have found beautiful wooden panelling and shelving with tiny storage drawers and a wide serving counter behind which the proprietor stands in welcoming pose.. I can still remember with nostalgia a hat shop in Bologna , and the deep cavernous reaches of a food shop in Santiago dela Compostella, where you had to be very careful to avoid the hams that were hanging from the beams. But then, that was a long time ago. Perhaps it is no longer there.

Twenty years ago, when still finding our feet here, our forestry neighbour took Brian to a quincaillerie or hardware store in a nearby town. He needed a chain saw to fell trees on our property, and our neighbour had been keen to give advice. The shop has passed from father to son and, like all the best establishments, has concentrated on giving good service , rather than carrying out flashy renovations. It still hasn’t changed , with its basic fitments and rough wooden floor. Wooden drawers, large and small, conceal a selection of screws and other such hardware. Everything has its place and can be found within seconds.And of course expert advice is readily given. We take our chain saw back there for servicing and it continues to give good service.

I was reminded of all this on Thursday as we stopped outside a haberdashery store in Millau to admire its traditional outside wooden panelling. Looking through the brightly lit windows we saw a cornucopia of traditional goods: tee towels; ladies underwear; mens cotton handkerchiefs; socks and cotton boxer shorts, all displayed on beautiful wooden shelving or suspended from the ceiling. But time was short and we needed to move on, so we promised ourselves to visit at a later date. But on turning away we heard a bell ring as the door was opened . A customer was leaving , laden with purchases. She had been escorted politely to the door by the shop assistant.

Wow! Beat that Asda!