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Save our communities from large supermarkets

Across Britain, the high street is in decline. The effects ripple through our communities. A major factor in this decline is the relentless rise of large supermarkets.

Supermarkets lead to local shops closing

Over 80% of independent shops on our high streets have closed.[1] Our local butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers and bakeries are shutting down. Meanwhile, hundreds of new supermarkets are opening, and supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury’s are increasing the number of local convenience stores they own.

There is a devastating lack of choice for local people buying groceries because of the rise of the supermarkets: nowadays, supermarkets control a whopping 97% of the grocery market.[2]

Supermarkets take money out of local communities

Half of the turnover of an independent local retailer goes back into the local community, while just 5% of the turnover of a supermarket does.[3] They take money out of communities and put into the hands of profit-hungry supermarket bosses.

Supermarkets lead to fewer local jobs

Every time a new supermarket opens, 276 jobs are lost locally.[4] Between 2008 and 2010, the big supermarkets Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s, pledged to create 67,000 new jobs. They fell far short of this target, creating just 28, 217 jobs.[5]

In 2011, supermarket giants expanded their floorspace by 2,750,000 square feet. You might expect this to lead to more jobs. The opposite happened: the total number of people employed by these companies fell by over 400.[6]

Supermarkets harm the environment

A staggering 17 billion portions of fruit and vegetables are left to rot by supermarkets, rejected because they are not considered “uniform”. To reach the standards supermarkets demand, intensive farming techniques are necessary, with a limited variety of food grown and use of chemicals to keep the fruit looking perfect.[7]

Up to 30% of the UK’s vegetable crop is never even harvested because the perfectly edible vegetables fail look how supermarkets want them to[7]. Supermarkets also demand that the food travels well, because food sold in supermarkets travels a lot further...

Most of the year, English apples are available, but only 25% of apples consumed in the UK are grown here. In fact, 90% of apples sold in our supermarkets are grown in France. The largest retailers have centralised distribution, meaning there is an enormous distance between producer, packager, distributor and ultimate retail outlet[8]. In order to supply food at short notice delivery lorries are often half-empty.[8]

Supermarkets also produce vast quantities of waste that cannot be recycled. Items are overpackaged, and a total of 6.4 billion non-recyclable carrier bags were given to supermarket customers in 2010.[9]

Supermarkets rip you off

Think you’re getting beef in your supermarket burger? Think again! Recently, supermarket beefburgers were found to contain 29% horsemeat.[10]

Those deals in supermarkets are often the result of some sketchy behaviour: they push up prices before “cost-cutting” campaigns, where the prices actually return to where they were. They took advantage of the current economic climate by pushing up prices, because they thought that we would expect things to cost more. And they’ll give with one hand and take with the other, pushing down prices for some items, while inflating the prices for others.

The problem is so big that in 2012, Which? magazine found that supermarkets have misled consumers with deceptive discount pricing techniques.[11] This is a criminal offence.

What can we do to stop this threat and help our communities to thrive?


We can use the Sustainable Communities Act to stop supermarkets from tearing apart our communities.

We are campaigning for a change that will do this. We need your help.

What we want is simple: for councils to have the power to put a levy on the large supermarkets in their areas and for that money to be spent to help boost local jobs, local trade, local services and local communities.

If this happened it would have big benefits and help undo the damage caused by large supermarkets. Money would be taken away from these profit-hungry corporations and put back into the community--where it belongs!

This has already happened in another part of the UK - last year the Northern Ireland Assembly passed a law that introduced a similar levy on large retail stores. It was for a new 8.5% local rate on retail outlets with a ‘rateable value’ above £500,000. You can read the proposal in full here

Please help win this change by taking the actions below:
1. Sign up to our Supermarket Levy campaign
2. Write to your councillor asking them to submit the supermarket levy proposal
3. Order copies of our briefing on the supermarket levy to distribute
4. Spread the word to your friends!

[1] Competition Commission. 2008. The Supply of Groceries in the UK Market Investigation.
[2] Kantar WorldPanel grocery market figures, published 21 March 2011
[3] Federation of Small Businesses. 2008. Keep Trade Local Manifesto
[4] Porter and Raistrick. 1998. The Impact of Out of Centre Food Superstores on Local Retail Employment
[5] Craven, N. 2012. Riddle of Phantom Shop Jobs: Supermarkets Fail to Deliver 39,000 Promised Positions.
[6] Association of Convenience Stores. 2011. Leading Supermarkets Fail to Deliver on Jobs for UK Communities
[7] Institution of Mechanical Engineers. 2012. Global Food: Want Not, Waste Not
[8] Sustain report. 2011. The Food Miles Report
[9] Waste and Resources Action Programme. 2011. New Data on Supermarket Carrier Bag Use
[10] Food Standards Agency. 2013. FSA Investigation into Horse DNA Found in Some Burgers
[11] Which? Magazine, 2012