I’m looking for a job in a shop at the moment – I’d like to work in a local deli ideally. I’ve just done my ‘Food Hygiene Certificate Level 2 For Retail’ and am very enthusiastic but I don’t have much retail experience. I’ve got 15 years experience marketing products that people don’t really need (Pantyliner anyone? Another cream-based liqueur perhaps? No? What about a credit card?) and have a good conversational grasp of office jargon but my retail experience is limited to charity bar-work in my office bar and a few months of working on the power-tool-selling-market-stall of an unsuitable boy in freezing cold northern towns when I was 19…
However I do have a LOT of experience shopping and one thing I do know is that little shops don’t actually make it terribly easy for us independent-shop-lovers to buy from them!
A month ago I was working in a bank. I had money to burn and dinner parties to cook for – but I couldn’t have made it to the lovely family fishmongers or Brazilian butchers during office hours. I wouldn’t have been able to buy lemongrass by the bunch at Ridley Road or source Kefalotiri cheese from that little Greek grocers in Bayswater. Unless I was willing to spend all day on a Saturday running around London (I wasn’t), I was pretty limited to doing supermarket shopping after I finished work.
My slightly anarchist mother was very proud of the resistance to Tesco in her village and I understand why. She argues the small shopkeepers are now all closing down in the face of supermarket competition.
She’s right but the sad fact is that the supermarket is the only practical option for busy people who work long hours.
I am a bit obsessive about food and sourcing the right ingredients for a dish but even I shopped at supermarkets 9 times out of 10 because I wasn’t able to get to an independent food shop during the week. The traditional model of 9-5 shop opening still applies and yet the way the public works and shops has changed. If independent shops could be more flexible in their opening times then I’m certain our reliance on the supermarket would diminish. If Brazilian butcher and the family fishmonger could open late (say until 8/9pm) on even just one night a week I really believe they would see the return on their staffing investment. And we’d be able to buy great fresh ingredients (that haven’t been packaged to within an inch of their lives) as well as support our local economies.
So if anyone lets me loose in their shop over the coming weeks I’ll volunteer for a late shift and see what happens!
PS. The picture above is one I took of the gorgeous Queens in Spitalfields – a shop that has always been open whenever I’ve needed a sparkly hanging fairy.