‘Eat that!’ yells a vilified Netto

New vast Tescos at Trafford, Manchester

Depressing, moi?

Which? Magazine (my Dad subscribes) has a feature this month called Best and Worst Supermarkets.

Forget what supermarkets do to undermine communities, this survey was purely about what they are like to shop in.

The survey placed the mighty Tesco at the very bottom of the list. ‘Eat that!’ yells a vilified Netto.

The survey looked at pricing, the freshness of fresh produce and the great British afterthought, customer service.

Participants found shopping in Tesco ‘unpleasant’ and that stores tended to have ‘surly staff’.

Quote: Tesco is also considered the supermarket which cares the least about its customers and is least trustworthy.

‘It’s too keen on profits and not keen enough on service,’ one member told Which?.

Only 27% of members felt that Tesco is helping to ease the strain on their food budget. No other store in the Which? survey was as poorly-rated in this respect.


The Tesco Effect hits Altrincham Hardest

Ghost Town Vancancy Rate

Let’s face it, the battle to save our towns from becoming crap-towns has been fought and lost.

In reality it wasn’t a fair fight. In war/fairness terms it was like pitting the 101st Airborne against Nicholas Parsons.

In his excellent and blood-pressure doubling book Captive State, George Monbiot talks about the Tesco-effect and what it does to towns.

This effect is approximately this: If a Tesco (or any big supermarket) opens a store in your town, employing say 500 people, then within a 5 mile radius roughly 1000 people will lose their jobs and businesses.

Net loss, 500 jobs (usually butchers, pubs, ice-cream men, chemists, milkmen, bookshops and, of course, grocers).

With this in mind, I was not exactly astonished to read that the town of Altrincham topped a recent list of new ghost towns, towns with a high incidence of vacancies – a word planners use to mean boarded up shops.

Now Altrincham was, until recently, considered quite posh. It is still surrounded on all sides by prosperous family neighbourhoods and good schools.

With Dewsbury and Bradford, also high on this ghost town list, there are other factors, like a terminal decline in industry. But Altrincham doesn’t have these broader, historical problems.

So why has the town centre wobbled and waned faster than Eric Pickles doing the three peaks? Well a downward view from google maps sheds light.

Altrincham not only has one of the biggest Tesco stores I’ve ever seen (blue on the map below), but somehow it got permission to build this megashed literally fifty yards from the high street (red).

(Supermarket people always claim they will ‘increase choice’ if they are allowed to build. The term ‘increase choice’ is used by all sorts of idiots, often politicians just before they begin privatising something.)

Altrincham Town Centre

Altrincham Town Centre, what chance did it have?

If you start walking from the other side of the town centre, the place visibly gives up and dies the closer you get to the Tesco Extra.

Wonder if a late counter-offensive from Mary Portas could put things right?

Modern Life is Rubbish #23332 – In the future, all shops will…

[ Published: 12 May 2009 ]

Asda. In the future all clothing will work on a buy one get one free basis (already successful with socks)…

But jacket, get trousers free. George at Asda.

But jacket, get trousers free. George at Asda.

And at the news stand in Tesco…  

In the future all magazines will be distilled into one magazine called Jamie.

Jamie Magazine

Jamie Magazine

Each page will have a flavoured picture of Jamie that you can lick.

If you lick it enough, the picture wears away to reveal TV listings showing when the next cookery programme is on.

In the future cookery programmes will be on all the time, meaning the Editor of Jamie can just use the same listings issue after issue, saving time and money. This saved cash will be put to better use buying more page-flavouring.

In the future, after Jamie is dead, licked to death by an obsessive fan presumably, the magazine will fold. That will be the end of the printed word because people won’t read anything that doesn’t have a flavour.

In the future, Asda will produce a suit that has the shirt, tie, socks, pants and shoes all conveniently sewn in. If you buy one you’ll get a second one free. When you get a hole in a sock you’ll just throw it all away or give it to a tramp.

In the future, tramps (many of them redundant Listings Editors) will all wear suits and ties as these will be cheaper than jeans, T-shirts, tracksuits etc.

The reading material they will sleep under will also be their evening meal.

Profound messages printed on T-shirt packaging at NEXT – Published: 25 Mar 2009

Next Tshirts

NEXT, makers of blue, grey and brown clothes, lead the way when it comes to making everyone in the UK look roughly the same.

Well done I say. Having to coordinate colours, if we’re honest, is beyond us. Go into any living room in Britain and you’ll know this is true.

Limiting clothing to two and half colours is a weight off, frankly.

But for Next, the help doesn’t stop there. Oh no. They have plans for our minds, not just our legs, arms, rude bits and upper torsos.

Witness Next making big strides into to world of high street, off-the-peg Confucianism (see picture).

Whether you work hard, play hard or both, from time to time we all need to relax.

That’s just beautiful, that is. On a packet of three t-shirts they expect you’ll sleep in (consecutively, not all three at once).

If you analyse this profound message, it breaks down like this: whether you a [where a is any activity] or b [where b is a different sort of activity], or a and b, from time to time you’ll need to x [where x is a not-necessarily-related essential bodily function].

So, let’s try reworking it with new a, b and x‘s.

Whether you lick the end of pencils, see visions of death in puddles or both, from time to time we all need to visit the toilet.

A suitable maxim to stick on the packaging of an air freshener, perhaps? 

Whether you enjoy touching the surface of your eyeballs, collect things you find on buses or both, from time to time we all need to reproduce.

Actually, I wish I hadn’t started writing this. I mean…if you stop and think about this too deeply you’ll despair.

Grown adults, paid wages, intelligent graduates all, working in teams, and they get out of bed each day and think up a massage to print on the plastic wrapping of a packet of t-shirts.

That’s what our economy is based on. People doing jobs like that.

There aren’t emoticons to express…


Hello sir, welcome to Next.

Skoob Books Driven Underground by Chain Stores – Published 18 Jul 2008

I was up in the Brunswick Centre, Bloomsbury, the other day and went looking for Skoob Books, one of London’s best second hand bookshops.

When I arrived at the place I remembered the shop being located, I found this instead…

The chain stores had moved in! And Skoob had been driven out.

Assuming that that was it for Skoob, yet another victim of the relentless spread of High Street Anywhere, I wandered off.

Further on I discovered – thanks to a sign tied to a lamppost – that Skoob was actually still in business and had found a place to trade in a basement underneath a new Waitrose Supermarket.

The entrance is somewhat hidden, right until you are almost at the door. But it’s well worth the trouble to find.

Skoob Books, BloomsburyI think there’s something enormously symbolic about this shop being literally driven underground.

It’s not just the fact that it’s an independently run shop, doing what it can to survive in an era that has seen chain stores running out of viable places to either buy out and take over.

It’s also partly to do with the idea of books, especially older, tattier, rarer and out of print books, being a sort of forbidden commodity you have to seek out; grubby and somehow not fit to be perused by this frappe-slurping, Top-Shopping generation.

The shop may be underground but doesn’t feel like a cellar. It’s more like an Aladdin’s cave. It’s a warm, airy room you enter, crammed with as many books as it’s scientifically possible accommodate in the space. And everything is in a logical order.

I was amused to see that, for no real reason, there’s an upright piano against one wall.

Perhaps it’s for people who want to try the sheet music before they buy. I’m sure Skoob are happy to let patrons play – so long as they can actually play.

Staff were keen to help and happy to take the time to track things down on a given subject.



A visitor‘ left this comment on 13 Nov 08
what did you buy tim?
A visitor‘ left this comment on 22 Oct 08
Here in little old Heckmondwike our secondhand bookshop on Union Road has closed its doors(been there for as long as I can remember-Lived locally all my life)It is going to be turned into yet more over priced undersized flats.
Christian‘ left this comment on 19 Jul 08
Nice post. And I find that first photo that you took quite terrifying in the grey uniformity of the shops and the way they seem to blend seamlessly with the grey sky, grey pavement, and grey people! :O)

Maplin, darling – Published: 12 Aug 2006


There are two kinds of people in this world: normal people and people who build their own speakers. I write today to the latter grouping.

Maplin have moved into premises on The Strand. London’s The Strand! Is that exciting? Now, is Maplin going up-market or is The Strand going down? Why does it feel wrong? And is it bad to think of Maplin as downmarket?

Back in the day, when Maplin was a mail-order components shop, it seemed pretty cool and a bit specialist. You wrote to them and they sent you a padded envelope with a new belt for your turntable or a pair of tweeters, you got things you couldn’t just buy on the high street.

I suspect the increasingly common sight of high-street Maplin store feels downmarket because they have pretty much moved into all the abandoned Tandy stores.

Tandy was, without doubt, downmarket, and it was quite right that it disappeared. Tandy sold components too, of course, but their main thrust was rubbish plasticky gadgets with LEDs that promised sooo much. Computerised dog collars, electric biscuit holders and handy travel endoscopes (batteries not included).

Sadly, Maplin seem to be piling up the same sort of Tandiesque tat by the door, to fool the passing trade into thinking it’s nothing but remote controlled scissors and digital hair-extensions from here on in.

I think they should open a separate chain called Maplin-lite, and stuff that full of this kind of silliness. I imagine it would do very well in foreign airports and Northern market towns. Maplin Regular could go on selling the tweeters and turntable belts. And it wouldn’t have to hide this sort of stock downstairs anymore, like some embarrassing little backroom full of adult books.

Any thoughts?




A visitor‘ left this comment on 12 Sep 06
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IKEA …shop or die trying – Published: 12 Feb 2005

The Swedish mega-store has a growing history of shopping and death 

Incident One
10th Feb 2005 – Several people were hurt in the crush as thousands flocked to the midnight opening of Ikea’s newest store. Bargain-hunters even abandoned their cars on the A406 north circular causing severe traffic problems, police said. “People became agitated and eventually they started trying to charge the doors.”

Incident Two
So while that is fresh in our minds, see if you can recall this from september 2004: A stampede of hundreds of shoppers in western Saudi Arabia has left at least three people crushed to death. Three people, trampled to death, in a rush for self-assembly furniture.

Incident Three
New Ikea in Edinburgh brings city to a stand still. “Despite earlier warnings, shoppers have flocked to the new store creating tailbacks as far as the Lothianburn junction of the Edinburgh bypass.” Prior to this opening 15,000 Scots would travel south of the border every week to Gateshead, to find their nearest Ikea.

Incident Four
Ikea opens in Leeds, West Yorkshire, one dead. This wasn’t reported in the national news, only the local press. The day Ikea opened traffic came to a standstill for miles around. The new store is situated by a very busy stretch of the M62 Motorway and in the chaos there were accidents, one person was killed. It wasn’t clear if that person was actually after some flatpack furniture, or was just the innocent victim of over-eager shoppers.



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‘Dogs Must Be Carried’ left this comment on 5 Mar 05
You never got this kind of nonsense at MFI…
Visit me @ http://dogsmustbecarried.blog-city.com/

‘moog’ left this comment on 12 Feb 05
and didnt they only have 70 of those leather sofas going at £45,when there was 15,000 people wanting one??
crazy, man!!
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