Local Communities Without a Corner Shop? That’s Just How Big Tech Companies Would Have it

Your local shop is under threat. £14bn has already been invested in apps that will put them out of business. Let’s stop that happening.

When lockdown first started last March, corner shops and convenience stores kept us going. Supermarkets had no delivery slots, toilet roll or pasta. My local shop in Wateringbury, Kent, run by the always friendly Benny, was consistently able to supply me with what I really needed.

Other temporary facilities like “Community Fridges” did an incredible job in feeding our local communities, but now that things are slowly returning to “normal”,  they are just not viable as people return to work.

In the real world, local stores provide lifelines to many families, the elderly or isolated, and those who do not have cars. Let’s help them survive.

Why Is Big Tech Interested in Small Shops?

This is now the next big opportunity as far as technology companies are concerned. Ads have already started appearing for apps that will get groceries to our doorstep faster than it would take for you to get to your local store and back. Here is a selection of some startups funded by Venture Capital…

https://weezy.co.uk/

https://jiffygrocery.co.uk/

https://getir.uk/

https://www.dijanow.com/

Pure laziness do I hear you say? Let’s not be judgemental. Such convenience will appeal to busy parents as well as students with late-night munchies or dinner party hosts who have run out of Rioja. The threat to our local shops is real.

The opportunity within the “local” market is probably bigger than you think. Convenience retail in the UK accounted for £40bn of the £190bn total grocery sales in 2018. Although the home delivery market for take-aways has already attracted huge budgets and big publicity, in fact the size of the convenience retail market dwarfs the takeaway food sector. Takeaways are worth an estimated £11.4bn. So convenience retail is nearly 4 x bigger.

What Has Happened So Far?

As a result, the sector has already attracted around $14bn of Venture Capital funding. The idea from a VC point of view is simple. Attract users with cheap prices and convenience, eradicate the competition and form a monopoly. Did you know that Uber has never turned a profit? But it attracts investors based on potential future earnings.

What Would a World Without a Corner Shop Look Like?

One of the business models is to use current local retail space as “fulfilment hubs”. Don’t forget that a basket of shopping must be big enough to command a delivery charge or the margin to cover it, yet it must be small enough to fit on a bike. So local “warehouses” or distribution points are a must.

The model seems to be to buy up local retail space that has fallen by the wayside.  Over the pandemic and beyond. However, they will no longer be shops as we know them. Simply blackened shop space used to store and distribute multiple shopping baskets on bikes and mopeds. Well stocked, but no consumer can enter.

A similar model is being proposed for restaurant quality delivery food. So, kitchens serving haute-cuisine menus… with no customers.

So let me ask you this. Where will you get your authentic Indian curry paste, Turkish kefir, Polish kielbasa, African fufu flour or heritage tomatoes in this highly commoditised, and very very bland delivery only future?

Can We Rely on the CMA to Intervene?

The Competition and Markets Authority seems to be failing to get the problem. Only last year they allowed Amazon to take a minority stake in Deliveroo, a move that could further help to commoditise the delivery marketplace at the expense of local supermarkets and stores.

I for one enjoy shopping. In fact, I enjoy food shopping more than clothes shopping. Yes, I actually browse in local supermarkets. I enjoy the unusual smells of exotic spices, almost as much as the colours of strangely shaped and coloured pulses and vegetables that I have never clapped eyes on before.

If you are with me on this, or if you just like your friendly local supermarket, use it more. In fact, do whatever you can, to use it as often as you can. Because tech companies are on the march for a piece of this marketplace.

And they will not stop until they are all gone.

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