Island View: Retail Goliaths killing the local community

PHUKET: Unemployment in Thailand is practically zero. The official unemployment rate is around the one per cent mark. Compare that to somewhere like the UK where unemployment figures over the past decade have fluctuated wildly between 12 and seven per cent, and one has to ask why a developed nation has an unemployment problem with millions dependent on government handouts.

One immediately striking difference compared to Phuket when walking down any British high street is the distinct lack of independent vendors touting their services and wares. It doesn’t matter where that high street is in the British Isles, you are sure to find the same run-of-the-mill high street chain stores monopolizing the town with perhaps a local butcher or baker squeezed in between them.

In fact, on my last visit home to what was once a vibrant market town in the UK, I was shocked and saddened to see rows of boarded up shops in a deserted town center that used to be a hive of activity.

The health food shop, tailor, shoe shop, barber, grocer and other homegrown businesses all packed up long ago. They fell victim to the convenience offered by large out-of-town superstores. With loss-leader pricing of everyday produce, in-store bakeries, plenty of parking and cheap petrol at their pumps, the retail Goliaths essentially killed off the local community.

The only survivors in the old market town were pubs that had turned into classy restaurants, nail and hair care studios, a ridiculously high-priced sandwich shop and, of course, the banks.

One shop I was happy to see still going was a small family-run grocers that has shelves filled with tinned fruit and things just not found in superstores.

Mind you, the British public seem to be quite happy to be preoccupied with which of the 16 supermarket giant offers the best deals. Many forget though, that less than a generation ago, there were 96 brands of British supermarket. Some just went out of business, but most were gobbled up by those 16 giant chains, so while shoppers believe they are being offered a wide variety of choice, they are all stocking their fridges with similar brands.

Sadly though, they are no longer supporting their own community and missing out on being part of the community as well.

— Nick Davies

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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