Retail Therapy

London Food Shopping: The People’s Supermarket – for the people, by the people?

Our ancestors would think they’d died and gone to heaven if they walked into a supermarket today. All that bounty all in one place – no hunting or gathering required. Quite amazing really. You can’t beat supermarkets for convenience and I often have fun wandering the aisles exploring the goodies on the shelves. However I’m not crazy about the way they are like juggernauts crushing all in their path. There is a road near by that has three Tescos in the space of approximately 500 metres. Ridiculous. I’m not crazy about bullies or monopolies in any form so increasingly seek out alternatives.

I had heard about The People’s Supermarket, a cooperative based in Holborn with members working in the store in exchange for reduced food prices. Its motto “For the people, by the people” and the concept seemed interesting so I went to check it out.

Founded by social entrepeneur Arthur Potts Dawson in 2010, the Big Idea was to start a radical new supermarket selling sustainable food, owned by the customers, who would work there for free to keep prices low and decide what was stocked.  Members pay an annual fee of £25 and commit to working four hours a month.  In return they get 20% off all their shopping and a share in the store.

The People's Supermarket shop sign

The first thing I spotted outside was a SPAR sign which confused me. SPAR is a massive nationwide chain of convenience shops so how was The People’s Supermarket independent or a cooperative?

A bit of research and I learnt the store had been facing closure so had entered into a community-private partnership arrangement with SPAR in June 2012. I’m not sure what that means exactly but The People’s Supermarket state that the store remains member-owned and member-run. SPAR is its main wholesale grocery supplier and is providing training and infrastructure support.  Does this mean that the original concept of a shop run independently can’t work? That’s a shame.

The People's Supermarket fruit and veg

The People's Kitchen

Stock wise, it was more like a corner shop than what i have in my mind as a supermarket and the shelves looked a little bare, though I did visit late on a weekend. There was a decent selection of locally grown produce and I really liked the kitchen that prepares and serves dishes with food nearing expiry to help minimise food waste.

The People’s Supermarket felt very much like a neighbourhood store so I won’t be travelling across London to do my regular shopping though I would pop in if in the area. It would be be good to see the original concept spread and succeed.

The People’s Supermarket, 72-78 Lamb’s Conduit St, London WC1N 3LP www.thepeoplessupermarket.org www.thepeoplessupermarket.org/

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