“I am well aware that small businesses are under threat. I want to use these services while they still exist, I really do. But they need to meet me halfway.”




Regular readers of onlinefocus will know we sometimes link to a local food blog “Big Spud”.

We thought it would be interesting to ask Gary, the author of the blog, to write something for us about food and local shops. Here it is – and it’s worth a read:

“I am passionate about my food. I am the main cook in my household of two adults and two children, preparing the daily meals and pushing the boat out too. I have a shelf groaning with cookbooks, I have drawers of gadgets, racks of spices and a dozen recipes swirling round my head at any one time. I can’t abide mediocre dinners and love to treat family and friends with meals I’ve toiled over.

When it comes to buying food, I’ll pick over the labels. For meat I’ll check for provenance and quality of life for the animal; with vegetables I’ll look for country of origin and freshness. In short I look for the best quality I can afford to feed my family.

Invariably supermarkets will offer the most convenient choice in this regard. I can wander up and down the aisles and leisurely poke the plastic packaging when it suits me. But the final product is never amazing, just OK.

This is why I so badly want to support my local shops, especially the butcher?s and the greengrocer?s. I want to chat to the person who knows the first name of the farmer who raised the pork belly. I want the expert to show me what variety of potato is bang in season today. You can’t beat the expertise of the local shopkeeper whose livelihood depends on your pound in their pocket, so *has* to take an interest in your shopping list. I love the interaction, and I love the quality produce you get too. I may pay a little more for shopping at these places but I’d happily eat a little less to eat a lot better.

But I very rarely shop at these places.

I am part of a modern working family where my wife and I work full-time. The local shops seem to still cater for a world where one member of the household (alright then, the mother) pops down the shops one weekday morning to gather the week’s food. I simply can’t get to the shops during the working week. This leaves us with Saturday. The situation in Rayleigh High Street is this: pay for parking up to 1pm, free thereafter. It *really* rankles me to have to pay for parking, it just feels like a rip-off to have to pay extra just for the luxury of visiting these shops in the morning. So I go in the afternoon – where it seems that by then these shops have half an eye on getting home and have sold out of anything worth having. They certainly haven’t taken any deliveries that day either, so you’re not getting the very best they can offer.

Which leaves me in a stalemate where I want the best but opening times and parking charges convince me that carrying on down the road and using the Sainsbury’s at Rayleigh Weir is the more convenient choice. When Tesco, Sainsbury?s etc. are all open early and late, with ample free parking, it means that despite the less-impressive produce their availability makes them an easy choice.

I really wish it wasn’t the case, but local councils and local shops have to play ball if they want my custom. Either allow free parking all day on Saturday to convince me to use the High Street at its best, or local traders – hopefully in concert – hold one late night a week in order to allow us 9-to-5ers the chance to shop there.

I am well aware that small businesses are under threat. I want to use these services while they still exist, I really do. But they need to meet me halfway.”

About the author, admin

  • This is something that ought to be taken to the Chamber of Trade. The next Rayleigh meeting is this coming Monday and I will be happy to pass these comments on.

    I do know the shops stay open late for the Christmas light switch on and some, certainly those in the service industry, do well so there is some precedent for it already.

  • Gary – you make some very valid points but it’s much much more than that, I don’t want to hear noisy cars roaring past with stereo’s blasting out, I don’t want to put up with hoards of nuisance kids / teens screaming and throwing chips at each other, I don’t want to get wet if it rains, I want shops that stock what I want. I go to Bluewater.

  • Chris, Michael – Christmas is one thing, I would hope we could aim a little broader than that.

    Rayleigh Resident – I sympathise with your points but comparing the high street to the shopping centres is another battle altogether. Personally I’m interested in the boutique food outlets, which I can’t get at Lakeside or Bluewater. For clothes, entertainment or electricals they’re great but none of their shops don’t satisfy foodie needs. (M&S doesn’t count!)

  • The way I see it Gary, if the Chamber of Trade were interested in late night shopping around Christmas , we could ask the cabinet member (Keith Hudson) to waive the car parking charges after 6 pm for those dates.

    If it works well, the council could then consider whether to stop charging after 6 pm throughout the year (even if only on one or two nights per week).

    The Lib Dems asked this year for charging to stop at 6 pm . The Conservatives didn’t agree with us – but they did at least listen a bit, and didn’t laugh us out of court.

  • I mentioned Christmas to show that traders are prepared to open in the evening, not to infer that it happens already. This is currently just once a year and it would be nice to extend it, especially where there are now restaurants adding to the evening economy.

  • Does anyone know what the decision was regarding Rayleigh Market? As I believe it will not be continuing in it’s present location passed September. There was talk of it moving to the High Street Taxi rank.

  • Have you tried the shops at The Grange, London Road?
    The excellent butcher, Martin Berrett, offers an inividual & personal service, & is well aware of where his meat comes from. There is also a very good greengrocers & a very helpful Chemist. Maybe Martin & the Greengrocer would be prepared to introduce a late night opening? AND there is FREE on-street parking at all times!!

  • I notice that a Tesco Express is to open on London Road. I wonder what the parade (such as Berrett’s) think of that? I will be interested to see if the local shops play to their strengths to combat the new guy in town.

  • It will be nice to be able to pick up a pint of milk after 5.30pm without going over to Asda. Hope the local shops over the road will be able to compete as well.

    I have been able to buy my Meat and Bread from independent shops for some time now. Just because a Tesco store opens you don’t have to buy everything from them.

  • There are a number of shops which will suffer and probably go out of business when the Tesco Express opens in the London Road but it is not just the independent shops going out of business, it is how Tesco duped everybody, except the ‘body’ who should have given this application a second thought. The name on the application was not Tesco but a company, I believe within the group. Anyway London Road will get a Tesco Express with all the hassle of parking, youngsters hanging around the store, rubbish strewn all over the place and the noise associated with a convenience store. That part of the London Road will never be the same again and the I feel sorry for the people in the area because I feel sure their houses will not improve financially being next to a supermarket. Whoever gave this application the ‘green light’ should re-think and give residents the chance to put their views forward.

  • I can very much understand your feelings on this Mike. But I don’t think there were realistic planning reasons for a refusal (though I’m not the ward councillor).

    Tesco would probably have won on appeal, and the council might well have had to have paid legal costs to them.

  • I well remember the objections when ASDA was first in the planning stage and the concern about the shops at Hambro Hill. Nearly 2 years on and no change except we now have a very handy computer repair shop. Also ASDA has proved popular beyond everyone’s expectations ( except for those people that live opposite ) . And as Ian rightly points out – nobody forces people to use these shops. They get used because they are cheap, they have what you want and you can easily park. The argument about Tesco’s takeover of the UK is another debate.

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