Life in London is expensive, I won’t deny that. You’ve either got to spend a fortune to live reasonably near the centre, or you’ve got to spend a fortune on travel. That’s before the other costs of living are factored in. And this is why I was intrigued to see this shop appearing.
This site on Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury was previously occupied by one of those slightly dodgy convenience stores – one of those ones that’s a bit crappy and looks like it might be the front for some sort of criminal enterprise. I must admit that when it closed, I thought it would become a Tesco Metro or Sainsbury’s Local for sure. Fortunately, it was not to be (probably because there’s one of each within five minutes’ walk).
What we’re getting instead is an interesting little experiment. It calls itself “The People’s Supermarket,” run by locals for locals on a not-for-profit basis. The idea is that it can cut its overheads by using a membership system. The way this works is that if you are a member of the co-operative, you volunteer your time in staffing the shop. In lieu of pay, you get a discount on goods sold there. You also get some say in policy and, says founder Arthur Potts-Dawson, the shop aims in this way to serve the unique needs of the local community. One in Bloomsbury may not operate in the same fashion as one in Bermondsey, one in Fulwell may not operate the same as one in Fulham.
Meanwhile, in line with the “shop local” philosophy, the produce on sale is to be sourced locally. Or at least, as locally as you can get when you’re in the middle of the city. Apparently one by-product of this is that they will focus on “seasonality,” which could be a good thing or a bad thing.
There is a precedent for this sort of thing. The promotional leaflet (from which most of the info in this entry is culled) talks about Park Slope in Brooklyn, which has been doing this sort of thing for the better part of four decades.
Will the idea work over here? Hard to say, I’ve never come across anything like it in London. However, Bloomsbury is a (relatively) residential area, and Lamb’s Conduit Street and nearby Marchmont Street have no shortage of independent shops, so maybe it has a shot here. I definitely think it’s an idea worthy of support in this day and age, and I’ll be keeping an eye on it (I’m sure they’ll be glad to hear that).
Workers of the world unite!
http://www.peoplessupermarket.org/ The website.
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/arthur-potts-dawson-lets-take-on-tesco-with-a-peoples-supermarket-1648257.html – Article from March explaining the concept.
www.foodcoop.com The American original.