Zombie Retail from Leningrad

At least this was pretty to look at in a way.

In the ‘up and coming’ (read: fewer baseheads on the street than ten years ago and some nice bars) area where we live, food retail options are limited. In fact the closest place to get anything other than an organic novelty rip-off or a yellowed tin of Happy Shopper beans is Co-op.

Co-op had nearly a third of UK food retail in the 50s but aggressive competitors and its own conservatism have cut it down to 5%ish. A trip to our local branch swiftly reveals why. Little is made of its ethical nature and heritage. Fittings are shabby and old, nothing is ever in stock (or if its actually available it is just one or two days away from its use by date). It is so downmarket it does not even carry pita bread, and the supply chain seems to be managed by some kind of ‘Care in the Community’ programme.

The other day the shop was as bare as one would expect of a market in Leningrad circa 1977 – the hopping mad manager was pacing around outside in some kind of prayerful act, hoping for the very very late delivery. It appeared some oafs in a lorry turned up around 9pm.

1,700 often prime sites combined with a boring yet friendly and trusted brand would give able retail minds plenty to work with. Instead, Co-op is coasting along, missing opportunities and refusing to invest. The dreams of the philanthropic tycoons of the past deserve a better future than this kind of mediocrity.

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