The Presence of Giants

Posted on January 15, 2010

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We are all aware of the ever-increasing dominance of chain stores on our high streets, the ominously encroaching blandness. I recently went back to a town that for a long time I called home and there experienced the disappointment of seeing the rather harrowing sight of a familiar little independent shop having been replaced by another all too familiar chain store. There were several cases in this particular market town that have arisen since last I was there (the most prominent victim for me being a reasonably sized book shop) and I must admit that I was surprised by the strength of the feeling of loss.

You might expect the mixed-period architecture to be unaffected but I could swear it is unhappy. I get the distinct impression of something that has had its guts blown out and a mask pinned across its face presenting a big smile. If you listen carefully you can almost hear the muffled mumblings of objection.

The shops that do survive are often the less useful ones, particularly in a town like this. The antiquey type places, the variety that tourists love. Tourists that will come and poke around, maybe buy the odd nik-nak, then go and have coffee at Pret. The danger is, quite frankly, Glastonbury: A beautiful town in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, not to mention an essay in itself. If you want to buy a crystal you need only walk a couple of yards in any direction but if you want to buy food or a hammer and nails you must go and bow before the big supermarkets and DIY stores on the edge of town. Whilst tourists are a useful, in some cases essential, source of income for the local economy it seems a bit of a waste if they feed the giants. Perhaps local shop-keepers should use that in their windows; “Please do not feed the giants”.

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