The Trolley Letters II

6 mins. to read
The Trolley Letters II

18 December 2015

Dear Mr Morrison

Just a short note to commiserate you on your demotion from the capitalist Premier League, the FTSE-100 index, today. I note that your shares have been trading downwards since this outcome was announced, even despite rating upgrades by the so-called brokers. At the beginning of 2015 your shares (LON:MRW) were trading at 182 pence; today they are at just over 146 pence – that’s loss of just under 20%.

That’s something you have in common with TESCO. But TESCO is still a big fish with a market cap of nearly £12 billion (merely a third of what it was four years ago) against yours of about £3.5 billion.

In retrospect you might conclude that you should never have been in the big boys club in the first place. Especially as it all came about thanks to your acquisition of Safeway in 2004 and of 35 Somerfield stores from the Co-op in 2009. You thought that you could challenge the majors by acquisition while they have all got where they are by means of a century or more of sustained organic growth.

What has been your contribution? Quite frankly, your aisles are a monument to petty bourgeois aspiration with a northern accent. Not bad quality, granted. But everywhere, the yellow and green backdrop oozes staid complacency in the financial security of the over-fifties. The under thirties don’t exist in your calculus. But have you considered that in twenty years’ time most of your customers will be dead?

All employers should look after their employees; but yours are in revolt. Nearly four thousand of your workers have initiated legal action against you for not having done enough to prevent a disgruntled staff member from stealing their bank, salary and national insurance details and then publishing them online. You have stated that you will contest this case.

There are aspects of your stores which reek of nostalgia. No other supermarket offers trolley lockers where shoppers can lock up their wheeled mountain of purchased merchandise while they pour their tea from tiny leprechaun’s teapots in your retro canteens – an homage to the 1950s heyday of the Lyons Corner Shop, complete with sugar bowls with tea stained spoons. I wonder that you don’t offer individualised hand-knitted egg cosies to keep each boiled egg warm, and doylies for each sliver of dunk-able toast.

The sepia prints on the walls – fragments of a lost and, in your view, more secure world before sexual politics, multiculturalism and eco-consciousness asserted themselves as reformist forces – reinforce the notion that yours is a backward-looking ethos. You try to re-assert the identity of the noble shopkeeper in a world where anti-consumerism is the growing dynamic. Can’t you see that some of the most successful and high-margin brands – take Superdry – are subversive? Your stores are about as transgressive as a maiden aunt’s tea party.

Do not imagine that the tentacles of post-modern financial capitalism will allow you to coast serenely to a sepia-tinted endgame. Already the hedge fund sharks are circling in the waters around you.

Yours sincerely,

Si Cramp, Justin Bieber Professor of Youth Studies, Metropolitan University of North Penge (Author of The Semiotics of Shopping)


19 December 2015

Lieber Herrn Lidl

Ist es wahr das sie Herr Aldis Bruder sind? Sind sie Zwillinge? Seine läden hat meine Mutter sehr gern, aber sagt sie das das Wein nach Aldi besser ist. Wenn sie nach England kommen, bitte mit uns in Canterbury bleiben.

Fröhliche Weihnachten und ein glüchlickes neues Jahr! Brian (8.5 Jahren), Canterbury

P.S. Nun habe ich meine Deutschhausaufgabe finiert!


20 December 2015

Dear Rev. Coop

I fear that I may have mislaid a much-loved leather thong in your Dartford outlet while attempting to open the sliding door of the dairy products chiller cabinet. Unfortunately, I was distracted by a group of unruly youths who had evidently arrived to buy alcohol during an apparently significant football match.

May I take the opportunity to say that I have always favoured your stores as the noble values which have animated your movement since the 19th century allow me to outsource my moral judgment to a trusted third party? I implicitly believe that your meat products have been obtained without animal suffering; that your coffee and tea have been produced without exploitation; and that a visit to your stores generates lower carbon emissions than those of your competitors. Indeed, I believe that by patronising your stores, I am directly helping the poor of the world, and I admit to basking in the warm glow of self-satisfaction which that gives me. You alone have subordinated the profit motive to higher aspirations; for do we not all agree that money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10)?

I am aware that the Cooperative Society underwent a difficult period during the tenure of your unfortunate predecessor. And I must confess that I was shocked that your ethical banking operation managed to generate losses of £600 million in 2013. I mean, we thought you were different from the casino bankers. I am sure, however, that those righteous good neighbours at Aurelius Capital Management and Silver Point Capital have imposed a wholesome Christian discipline on your risk management, for the benefit of all.

You may be assured that the exemplary reputation of your supermarket operation was entirely unaffected.

I enclose a discreetly stamped and addressed envelope which I hope you might use to return the above-mentioned item to me at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely, Fred Chump, Vice-Chair, Christians Against Sin


21 December 2015

Dear Mr Walmart-ASDA

I hope you don’t mind my asking because I know you’re very busy, especially at this time of year, but I just wondered why your share price on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE:WMT) could have slipped from over US$90 at the beginning of the year to about US$59 today. That’s a fall of over a third, if I’m not mistaken.

I wonder if there might be a problem with your pile-‘em-high, sell-‘em-cheap large-surface business model in the age of bargain-savvy, internet-enabled, brand-conscious frequent shoppers? Plus a growing number of people like me who want to de-clutter and who refuse to buy tat destined for the charity shop.

I am an occasional shopper at ASDA in the UK which, as we are reminded as we enter the store, is a member of the Walmart family. I was not entirely surprised to learn back in the summer that ASDA’s like-for-like sales in the quarter to the end of June were down nearly 5% as the footfall in my local superstore seems much sparser than in years gone by. Perhaps that is the result of competition from “discounters” and “Pound Shops” with which we are well very served in these damp islands.

But if you will indulge me in a Christmastide reflection it’s not actually about price alone. It’s the entire experience. When I go out I want to be jollied up a bit and taken out of myself. Visiting one of your stores is about as uplifting as a trip to the dentist. Please don’t take that personally, but I just had to say it.

Doing your job must be difficult as the ground keeps moving under your feet and we shoppers are a fickle bunch. I hope things begin to look up for you next year. Though somehow, I doubt they will.

Very kindly yours, Emelia Plankton, Cheam


There will be more Trolley Letters in 2016

Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *