Online shopping and large out-of-town hypermarkets are decimating the high street. Only last week another major retail chain, Mothercare, went bust. When I am in the UK I live in a pretty little village in the Welsh valleys which has its own high street, in fact I live on it. A few yards along the road are the shops. There are a couple of small supermarkets, co-op and Spar and the butchers, bakers, newsagent as well as the charity shop and hairdressers.
As I like to support local business I use these shops instead of jumping in the car to go to Tesco and while there is not much to choose from between the small supermarkets and the large ones I thought it would be good to buy my meat and bread locally. Now I like a good steak and I am talking more American size than European so when I first visited the local butcher and asked for a hefty slice of rib-eye he was very pleased to meet me.
However, while that first steak was very good I cannot say the same for many of the others I have had from him. You see he only gets small portions of meat each week and it is definitely a bit hit and miss. It’s the same with the local baker. While they definitely make a great white loaf their brown bread is a bit too dense and my food police (wife) tells me I can only eat brown bread.
When I do go to the large supermarket and buy steak and bread it is always the same, it is always the same quality and always the same taste, it’s consistent. Even though I am prepared to pay a bit more to support the local shops the price difference is quite substantial. While I pay £25 per kilo for rib-eye in the butchers it is only £15 in Lidl and usually a better steak.
It is, however, not just price alone which is killing the little guy it is also quality and consistency. I tried but I am afraid it’s Tescos or Lidl from now on.
Bahrain is still not yet majorly affected by online sales as it is difficult to get things delivered here. Large supermarkets such as LuLu have arrived and made a big impact but in general, we still use the local ones such as Megamart and Al Osra because they are closer.
The suq has seen a decline in footfall though. When I first arrived back in 1992 we seemed to purchase most things from the suq. We were probably up there two or three times a week. If you could not get it in the suq then you probably didn’t need it anyway. Then the malls started going up. In 92 we had one. Jawad’s mall in Nuwaidrat. Now there are about 3,000 seemingly perched on each street corner and another one opening every week. Now the only time we go to the suq is when we have visitors and we want them to see the quaint traditions.
But even the mega malls are still not the answer. Last week I wanted a new light fitting for my house. I knew exactly the style I wanted so off I went to the biggest mall of them all Dragon City. There are hundreds of lighting shops there and I spent over two hours trooping round them all looking for the light I wanted. No joy I could not find it anywhere. When I got home I typed in a rough description of it at Amazon and boom!
There it was not only the exact one I wanted but an enhanced version which was so much better. A total of fewer than five minutes to find it and order it. Back to Wales and it is waiting for me. When delivery to Bahrain gets sorted out then a lot of shops in Bahrain are going to go the same way as the US and UK.
Of course, the fairer sex will still always like to troop around the shops looking for shoes and handbags but for blokes the Internet is shopping nirvana.