Originally posted by Montegrano
Found this in the Observer:
For those of you in the UK, I’m wondering if the reporter’s shock to the store’s abundance was either exaggerated or reasonably provoked. I’ve never visited the UK, so I have no basis of comparison. Are US stores really that much more abundant and extravagant in food than UK stores? I wouldn’t be surprised.
It’s largely a matter of context. For example, here in Manchester we have Sainsbury’s and Tesco which are every bit as large, in some cases larger, than typical US supermarkets. Nonetheless, there’s still a general unease about those sorts of superstores. A smaller, more focussed shop, however, say a specialty butcher or fishmonger or whatnot, is likely to be smaller than its US counterpart.
The other thing is, perhaps a smaller proportion of the available stock is going to be on display at any one time, especially perishables. I know what the Guardian article is talking about wrt Whole Foods Market. The first time I went into WFM, I thought a) this is pretty shocking, b) the level of extravagant overkill is entirely out of place in somewhere that’s supposed to have a position aimed at environmental sensitivity, c) what are they going to do with all that waste? Especially with meat, you can literally see it rotting before your eyes. It’s not a problem with things that aren’t perishable, but particularly in fish, I can’t imagine all of it is going to be sold before it goes bad. The other thing about WFM is the emphasis on wholesale indulgence – you see a lot of things, particularly sweets and puddings, that are comical caricatures, again, IMHO totally out of place in context of the market position they’re trying to dominate.
Also, you had to see what the WFM replaced. The old Fresh & Wild in Notting Hill was IMHO the perfect example of how to do things right, if you want to be a “health-food” shop chain. Selection was excellent but the size wasn’t overwhelming, everything was within reach and the overall feel of the shop wasn’t industrial.
But I think the Fresh and Wild, from the perspective of an American audience to whom quantity is associated with value and to a certain extent with security, would have seemed anemic and sparing. I also think it’s an example of how risky it is to translate a concept based on cultural perceptions, even if the culture is pretty similar. F&W I suspect had occupied a fonder place in British hearts than WFM ever can, and I suspect the WFM will be the butt of jokes or more sarcastic commentary for years to come.