Great, shiny temples of commerce, the supermarket has cleared out High Streets across the country faster than a Rolf Harris record on a dancefloor. They employ more people than the NHS, own more land than the Duke of Westminster, and pay less tax than you do. They’ve bought your loyalty with points, and know more about you than your own parents. Here are the top 10, each with horse rating.
An bargain blend of small-fry, it would be an insult to the English language to describe any of Costcutter’s sullen corner shops as ‘super’ markets. The premise of choice for people on a Friday night fags, vodka ’n’ Lotto dash, Costcutters serve as time capsules for dying brands. Products long since dumped from the food chain – marrowfat peas, scampi flavoured crisps, the ever-mystifying Fray Bentos tinned pie – bitterly cling on here.
Horse rating: **** – Frankly, you’d be lucky if it’s just horse in a Fray Bentos.
Highly successful German crap-mart Aldi arrived in Britain 25 years ago, bringing cheap wheat beer and sinister practices. Already on shaky moral ground having been a supplier to the Nazis in WWII, Aldi further blotted its copybook by firing a store manager for being HIV-positive, spying on its staff and using illegally-logged Indonesian timber. It has won back some customers with very limited-time special offers. Particularly on hardwood patio furniture.
Horse rating: ***** – Aldi’s lasagne contained no less than 100% horse. Even the pasta.
Once the Mr Nice Guy of supermarkets, I lost all respect for Co-op after they produced a series of adverts that forced a Scotsman to rhyme the words ‘good’ and ‘food’, a task he succeeded at by rendering them as entirely new words. Co-op therefore now aspires to be ‘gudd with fudd’.
Horse rating: ** – Co-op is generally too right-on for that sort of chicanery.
Wazda is of course now owed by Walmart, a company run by Sith lords from a Death Shed somewhere in Arkansas. The American takeover has had little discernable effect on the chain, other than the fact that the assistants bleep more often they used to. It is thought that the bid was made on the strength of Asda’s own George clothing brand, which was used to kit out the Imperial officers.
Horse rating: *** – Maybe it’s me, but I’d never trust a shop which uses bottom patting as a leitmotif.
Morrisons retains a strong but unspoken attachment to its Northern roots, but would prefer you not to notice that. The clues are there. Maybe it’s the celebrity-heavy marketing campaigns featuring Alan Hansen barking at you to buy some cornflakes. Maybe it’s those in-house pie shops that lurk in every store, billowing out noxious shitfunk like an earth drain. Or maybe it’s because most of the stores are located in the North of England. Who can say?
Horse rating: **** – Plenty of horse. Also traces of whippet.
M&S isn’t just a supermarket. This is a supermarket that defines – more than any other organisation in the country – your social standing, particularly around the middle classes. Buying your basic milk and eggs here? You’ve probably popped them in to a hessian bag beside those opera tickets. Just purchasing comfy pants and ‘special treat’ food? Be careful, one of your blue collars is slightly turned up. Wouldn’t dream of going in? Get back to your gutter / palace.
Horse rating: * – Questions will be asked in Parliament if this happens.
Horse rating: **** – Iceland’s chief exec was charming about the whole episode.
In expensively signing up both Delia – with her lovely-looking garden – and the nation’s favourite post-molecular tastebud-botherer in Heston Blumenthal, Waitrose once again gently reminded the world that politeness doesn’t come cheap. It is the only supermarket to boast an ‘Essentials’ range that includes fillet steak and coconut cream.
Horse rating: * – Quite a lot of people who shop in Waitrose will own horses, so the PR risk was always going to be too great.
Less nakedly ambitious than Tesco but still as greedy in coveting middle market positioning, Sainsbury’s has invested heavily in long-term ‘face’ Jamie Oliver. This successful strategy was designed to front up the store’s everyman credentials. It was a smart move, because no man is more ‘every’ than JO. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine another human being that so perfectly captures the mean, mode and median of male Britain – quite sweary, not the sharpest, but certainly not thick, clothes Shoreditch to Blue Harbour, loves being on telly, and looks like he’d enjoy a good fart.
Horse rating: *** – But at least it would be *pukka*.
It’s said that one pound of every seven spent in Britain passes through a Tesco’s till. And for a while, it seemed a real possibility that the megalith would paint the red out of the Union Jack, buy every playing field, and decree the nation blue and white. The choice to name a luxury range ‘Finest’ was telling. This was a shop saying ‘We’ll decide the best you’re ever going to get, and you’ll fucking like it.’ These days, having failed to convince Americans of the merits of buying food in quantities smaller than what’s needed to sustain, say, an army base, Tesco is somewhat under a cloud. But it’ll be back. And how.
Horse rating: **** – The full page apology newspaper adverts Tesco took out were funnier than anything Frankie Boyle has ever said.
- Tesco voted worst supermarket in customer survey (theweek.co.uk)