Inconvenience Stores – the new high street format

The Co-op is a timeless store.

Not only has it been around longer than all the modern players, it now opens for longer hours than ever before, having taken over most of the 7-11s on our high streets.

Instead of a Convenience Store we’ve now got Inconvenience Stores up and down the country.  Regularly “over-trading”, ie running overcapacity, in often small and ill-equipped stores in rural towns and villages.

Some small towns have multiple stores. East Lothian is a case in point, with 2 towns with 3 Co-op stores each.

They run the town centre stores like supermarkets with shelves overflowing with essential products like bottled water, ice and air freshener (with unbelievable range of choice), but limited choice of basics and fresh food. Few are prepared to speak out, but the higher prices don’t necessarily reflect higher rents, as round here they are cheap as chips.

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Convenience Shopping

Why do we eat four times as much packaged food as fresh? Ready meals, crisps, cakes and biscuits, along with fizzy pop (and alcohol) are ahead in the queue impugned for the rise in national obesity.

Meanwhile fresh food has never been more expensive and hard to come by, unless you’re in the metropolis.

So what’s our local co-op doing to buck the trend? It has invested just short of a million quid in refrigeration in the last year and cemented an effective monopoly on our high street.

What for? More ready meals, it seems.

Yay – the convenience format (accessible and open all hours) and nicely presented carbs along with hidden sugars and alcohol (the research states say that clever packaging is key) is going to kill us.

Co-opoly

As a long standing member of the Co-op it is hard to grumble about its ethics, though as the recent imbroglios imply, it seems no organisation is immune from serious maladministration. Let’s leave aside the corporate hubris and spectacular incompetence that ended with the sale of Co-op Bank to a bunch of vulture capitalists. I had voted against the daft merger with Britannia, but on the grounds that big is not always beautiful. Little did I know that it was going to turn out quite so ugly. Nor was I aware of the sheer number of small societies that were taken in by the benefits of a merger with the Co-op Group behemoth. Economies of scale, buyer power and all that, merely ape the market rather than lead it.

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Love Poem Or

It is Sunday, and the sun is shining hot like its going to cook my flesh. Staring out over the sea, there is nothing much going on. Gulls wheel and cry. A column of gannets flies low, due south. The cats stretch. Peace. A tune sticks in my head in demand of some words. But my attempts to craft a love poem are shattered. The thunderous rumble followed by a devastating crash of the Co-op delivery puncture an old man’s idyll. Maybe that poem wasn’t ever going to happen, really it is more than twenty years since the last one. But this is a reminder that all that matters today – a Sunday – is profit, just like yesterday, when the darned delivery vehicle blocked Abbeylands completely so that it could continue providing the great unwashed with fizzy fructose. The day before the ceremony lasted 2 solid hours, 8 til 10 to be precise, as the patient trolleys queued awaiting their turn to carry their load!

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Have Your Say

The Co-op is looking for help in shaping the future of the business. They say they know it’s time to change, but had they asked around anyone could have told them that. It’s the co-operative way, they say, to hear what you have to say and that making decisions with you, not for you, remains at the very heart of everything they do. Not sure I buy this, as I’ve still got a good dozen of unresolved issues, which have inconveniently not been addressed, probably as I stopped complaining and forgot to even publish this post before the survey closed.

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Bay watch

Should there be more bays for deliveries on Dunbar High Street?

The jury is out. Even if there were more bays available for deliveries, they would almost certainly be usurped by car drivers who think that the only ‘parking offence’ is the warden issuing tickets, and that the main thing wrong with illegal parking is getting caught. The pattern of deliveries has also changed irrevocably, with the emergence of the gig economy and what with multiple failed deliveries now common place and high street outlets participating as collection points, exacerbating unnecessary traffic. Environmentally and socially these models of service have unforeseen consequences.

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In and out

A co-op delivery starts at ten to nine.

Driver first parks in front of local residents properties. Thankfully before too long he is away again. However the delivery involved a 10m lorry to deliver one small load. This doesn’t make sense.

Oh but now there is a second delivery lorry – same size, double parked, blocking the northbound carriageway. This drop won’t be too long, but this driver never ever uses a parking bay, even when one is available. Why should he? The street is wide enough for more than 2 elephants.

If all deliveries were “in and out” like this, perhaps we would not complain so much.

However, there is a growing case for smaller delivery vehicles serving the Dunbar High Street. Smaller vehicles would improve road visibility and add to the feeling of safety for older folk, mothers and children.

They would also reduce the environmental impact, noise and pollution on our High Street, which has a significant resident population.

The right to buy

Co-op delivery starts at ten to nine. Driver first parks in the bus stop, idling. A few minutes later he pulls out of the bus stop and parks just 2 cars forward, still blocking the bus stop. The refrigeration unit is turned off early. Ten minutes later he moves forward in front of my house, which is 20m from the store. Starts unloading.

One hour later, the unloading continues.

Importantly boxes of Quavers are being gingerly steered, weighed down by 12 packs of staples, like Stella Artois.

It is now 10:37 and the the driver has had the engine on for 5 minutes and seems ready to go. Probably having his rest break and getting his toesies warm again over a cuppasoup.

Thank the lord he is off, time of departure? 10:40am, making the whole unloading process 1 hour 50 minutes.

It is no wonder that people prefer Malls to High Streets.

The right to quiet

It’s Sunday, when most people plan to lie in. However a large co-op delivery starts early – maybe it is 8:15-8:30am – who is checking, maybe the driver is on BST?

It finishes over an hour later around 10:00am. The bus stop is blocked for the entire duration and the delivery cages crash past local residents houses to the store, which is some 30m away from where the delivery vehicle is parked.

Due to the distances involved the driver has to lower and raise the tail gate for each cage, which entails further clatter and noise – which interrupts the otherwise respected Sunday peace.