Hey, sometimes the lefty lot are actually correct


Galling though it may be to have to admit it there are times when those over on the left side of the political aisle are correct. Take, for example, the case of supermarkets. They've been telling us for the past couple of decades that they're wrong,. That they rip the heart out of the High Street and that something must be done to stop them. And it even looks like they might have been right:

Supermarkets in Britain could start to close as the grocery industry struggles to cope with an unprecedented slide in sales and profits, the head of Waitrose has warned.

Mark Price, the managing director of the upmarket grocer, said it was “incredibly hard to call” whether all of Britain’s food retailers would survive tumultuous shifts in shopping habits.

The “Big Four” supermarket groups have been forced to dramatically rein in plans to open new stores in UK in order to save cash to shore up their balance sheet. In recent weeks Tesco has scrapped two supermarket openings despite actually building the stores.

However, Mr Price warned that food retailers could be forced to go a step further and close existing stores, just as non-food retailers have done in Britain since the onset of recession.

He was speaking in the week that rival J Sainsbury slumped to a £290m pre-tax loss, scrapped plans to open new stores, and warned that sales in supermarkets will be falling “for the next few years”.

However, let's not go overboard in our appreciation of their perspicacity here. For all those years they were complaining they were in fact wrong. For we, the consumers, by the very fact that we went shopping at the supermarkets, showed that we liked shopping at supermarkets. Further, said supermarkets aren't about to be replaced by the High Street of old. Instead they're being outcompeted by online shopping and the budget retailers. Meaning that we value convenience and low prices even more than we all thought we did.

And the other point that we really must make about this is that, of course, nothing at all "needed to be done". Whether we think this is as a result of changing consumer tastes, or merely as a revelation of extant tastes now that we can sample these alternatives, no one at all has had to intervene in the shopping market in order to overturn those supermarkets. The market itself has done all of that for us: the aggregate effect of us spending our own pounds in our own manner has led to the results that obviously we all, in aggregate, prefer.

So those lefties, those campaigners, might well have been right, correct, in their insistence that there was something better than supermarkets. But they were obviously entirely wrong in whether anyone needed to do anything about it for one thing that markets really are very good indeed at is reflecting consumer preferences.