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Supermarkets: The Fourth Emergency Service

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From the local Londis to the corner shop Costcutter to the bigger players such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Iceland to name a few, there’s something rather special going on with our food retailers.

Store colleagues, if they didn’t already, should hold their heads with pride, for they, alongside doctors, nurses, ambulance crews, firefighters and paramedics are now designated as being key workers. And quite rightly too.

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Up until a few short weeks ago, we went about our daily lives, stopping off at either the corner store or the supermarket to pick up our groceries and probably never gave it a second thought. But, in the last week especially, our perception of those who keep us fed in such difficult times, has shifted dramatically.

From mere shelf stacker to key worker in the blink of an eye, how times change.

And this has to be good news for another reason. For many a year, retail generally hasn’t done a particularly great job of attracting new talent to the sector. Ask school leavers and graduates alike what they feel about a career in retail and you’re most likely to receive a sideways look and something along the lines that it’s only good to provide some pin money while seeking a ‘proper career’.

That’s all changing. Now, I’m not going as far as making a direct comparison with NHS workers, but they are now beginning to be mentioned in the same breath. And that is absolutely the way it should be.

But it’s not just the workforce who deserve praise, it’s the supermarkets themselves who are now collaborating in ways thought unimaginable just earlier this month.

I recently ventured an opinion that the supermarkets were letting us down and to say I was vilified on social media would be an understatement. But that was when there was no control of stockpiling, no sanitizers as you entered the store, no social distancing, no controls whatsoever in fact. Things which today, if they were missing, would be abhorrent to us. My comments were made just ten short (or long, depending on which way you look at it) days ago, such is the speed at which we are traveling.

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But there’s something else which is differentiating the food retailers from some of their retail cousins on the high street and that’s, without exception, how they are treating both their staff, their customers and their contributions to the local community.

From Tesco paying staff a 10% bonus, to Morrisons donating £10 million to food banks to the Co-op donating £4.5 million to various charities to Iceland where store teams have visited other outlets in order to buy toilet rolls so that they could give one to each elderly customer with their shopping. Extraordinary acts of kindness and generosity right across the sector.

We often refer to innovation in retail, however, I’m not sure that anyone envisaged the kind we are currently witnessing. The Co-op are working with Deliveroo to deliver locally and are working with restaurant chains such as Caffè Nero to draft more staff onto the front line. Meanwhile the entire sector is working with government in order to prioritise deliveries to the elderly and vulnerable.

And no-one appears to be complaining that the consumer isn’t getting a good deal. Take note the Competitions and Markets Authority, the new normal is being built right now, and guess what? It looks to be working rather well.


This article was written by Andrew Busby from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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