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The Grocers: The Rise and Rise of Supermarket Chains: Paperback – 1 May 2001

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It must be one of life's ironies that one of the most dynamic industry sectors of the last 20 years is founded on one of the most humdrum activities of the last seven days: the weekly shop. Next time you're crashing your trolley around overcrowded aisles and up-ending pyramids of Honduran ugli fruit, remember, you're part of a great tradition of innovation and progress.

Supermarkets are headline news: takeovers, price wars, destroyers of town centres and communities--it's easy to forget that they also supply us with goods and, increasingly, services, designed to make our lives fuller and easier. One estimate states that "an astonishing two per cent of an average adult life will be spent inside a supermarket." The big players, in fact, possess such power that they are able to "partly reflect and partly drive significant shifts in social patterns." In The Grocers, Seth and Randall look at the characters and stories behind each of the UK's major household names, Asda, M & S, Sainsbury's, Safeway, Tesco, broadening their gaze to include European and US retailing. The modest beginnings contrast sharply with today's total experience. It's hard to imagine, but impossible not to admire Jack Cohen, the founder of Tesco, wheeler-dealing his way to profits, buying "a consignment of 'Flying Bird' Danish cream from a half-sunk ship and sending it off to his shops with the instruction--'Takeoff the labels, get a tin of Duraglit from the shelves to clean off the rust and sell these for 2d a tin'."

Serving up a man-size slab of retail therapy, The Grocers is a fascinating account of how the corner shop came to corner shopping. --Iain Campbell --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"- "The Grocers is a terrific story compellingly told; the growth of the world retailers is well portrayed. Written with authority by two consummate business professionals, the analysis of brands and retailing rang a whole lot of bells." Niall Fitzgerald, Chairman, Unilever plc, London - "...full of vivid insights on the rise of leading British supermarkets." The Daily Telegraph"

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grocers are people too 18 May 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
From an Anglocentric base, Seth and Randall provide a fascinating history of grocery retailing. The facts and figures are all there for the serious of study but most of us will be riveted by the personalities. There is nothing much new about retailing after all: you break bulk and take a margin. Yet these grocers are wildly different people who have built successful, competitive businesses on the backs of strongly held personal beliefs.
The book opens with the leading (as of today) British supermarket, Tesco, and works down the UK pecking order. It must have been difficult for the authors to keep up with the rapidly changing sector and there was only just time to incorporate the Wal-Mart acquisition of Asda. Then the perspective broadens to continental Europe and the US. The last four chapters draw conclusions and make forecasts.
Here I particularly liked the profitability comparisons across the UK, US, France and Belgium (UK margins higher but return on capital about the same). They see the UK as more innovative which will certainly be challenged by others. And they bravely address the implications for, and as a result of, e-commerce.
Those of us who can rise above the Britishness of this book gain greatly from its fresh perspective and candor. I didn't agree quite a few of the authors' assertions but they made me think again.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much for students 2 April 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I think that this book is written in difficult language, and not very structural (sometimes you do not know who they are talking about). But on overall it produces good history and development of major UK supermarkets, such as Tesco, Sainsbutys, Asda, Safeway.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! 12 July 2002
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As someone who works for one of the big UK supermarkets, i think that this book was brilliant, by giving me an insight into the grocery business on a more global scale. Perhaps, though the book could have been improved by going into more detail, particularly with the European and Asian markets, and also with some of the smaller UK players. I was also disapointed that the entry into the Irish market by Tesco, Sainsburys, Safeway, and Lidl was not covered in any detail.
The other problem is that the book is now sllightly out of date, but this is to be expected with such a fast changing sector.
Overall though, I would say that this is a good overview of the global grocery market, and an excellent overview of the UK Supermarket industry - a must buy for anyone interested in or studying the grocery retail.
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