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seany t

May 11, 2006
I've worked at, and for, a supermarket in the past and at first I thought all the scaremongering about 'Supermarket Power' was merely that.

However, right now there are many, many things are I am becoming increasingly disillusioned by:

• Supermarkets initially made money by using brands to get people into their stores. Then, they upped the prices those brands paid for shelf space. Then they went to those brands, acquired their supplier list, used these people to make products for them (undercutting them on quality and price) and called it Own Label. Then they put the price up again for these brands, phased many out and lent on many suppliers so hard, that lots of these companies couldn't get quantities of their own product.

Now Tesco are bringing out a 'Stealth brand' to combat this negative view people have of supermarket control, meaning that their shelves will have Value, Good, Better, Best and a mystery weird looking new one to choose from, along with the handful of brands that can still make enough cash to make it worthwhile paying to be there.

For example, at a store I worked at 7 years back Bassett's paid £10,000 per annum to rent an end of shelf sweet stall selling sweets. So to make any profit at all, they had to shift £20,000 worth of sweets. Then the store put those costs up, they couldn't pay them and the Own Label's took over - in turn saving the supermarket years of advertising costs, supplier overheads and gaining them a large consumer base.

• Supermarkets have altered the agreement with brands they stock from having to pay them within 20-30 days of sale, to a now mammoth 90, meaning many brands will go under unless they have huge stockpiles of cash.

• Supermarkets largely demand that all goods must come in SRP (Shelf Ready Packaging) to be stocked on their shelves. This means your packet of, say Bread Sauce, comes in a plastic tray ready to go on a shelf, wrapped in a plastic sleeve and ready packed in a cardboard box then a larger shipper to make the supermarket workers' lives easier for putting it on shelf. Less than half of that is necessary by Food Safety Standards, and yet the supermarkets demand it, yet the brands or customers foot the bill.

• All vegetables and salads bearing the sticker "Washed and ready to eat" are done so at their production line, meaning that if your Rocket is imported from Kenya, then it's the Kenyan's who are using their limited water supplies to save us 15 seconds. And for every bag of salad washed, the estimated water wasted is 10 times that which we'd have used by running a tap.

• 40% of ALL music sold in this country last year was via Tesco. That means that given that on average, Tesco only submits 2 new releases per week and one new compilation into it's charts, they only promoted 100-odd artists last year (the majority of those already established too).

• The colossal profit many of these companies make is often held off shore. There is an ongoing legal dispute running between Tesco and The Guardian over what the supermarket has been doing with its profits in order to evade paying tax to the Government, and essentially all of us. The amount was in the region of £1 bn. The debate has now been settled and the paper asked to apologise for quoting a wrong amount, but the Judge has allowed the paper to use the evidence presented as there was undoubtedly some of this amount tied up in legal loopholes that the UK Government can't chase.

On the plus side, some environmentalists argue that by doing all your shopping at one place, you're reducing your carbon footprint, but bankrupting the high street and community centre.

Anyway... rant over. Any thoughts?