Supermarket chain will urge shoppers to keep it green

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The Independent Online

Environment Correspondent

A new green supermarket chain opened its first branch yesterday with the aim of persuading people to shop for a better world.

The Out of This World chain, financed by 2,000 small and environmentally- minded or socially concerned investors, has established its first shop in Bristol. A second will open in Gosforth, near Newcastle-on-Tyne, next month with seven more to follow by the end of next year.

Customers will be asked to pay pounds 5 to become lifetime members of the cooperative which runs the chain, although they will be offered an initial three- month free trial. Yesterday dozens were joining while more than 1,000 visited the shop.

''This is about trying to convert people's social and environmental concerns into choices about what they buy,'' said Richard Adams, the managing director. The membership scheme will make customers loyal to the shops and encourage them to express their views about what should and should not be stocked.

Nearly three-quarters of the products on sale are food, including locally grown organic vegetables and "fair trade" produce brought from poor farmers in developing countries at an above-market rate, stable prices.

The remainder of the stock includes items such as paints and cleaners with minimum environmental harm, beauty products and deodorants not tested on animals, arts and crafts products from the Third World, and wines and beers.

There are 3,000 different lines on sale in Bristol, a little less than half the number found in one of the new, compact urban supermarkets such as Tesco Metro.

Each store costs about pounds 250,000 to set up and the existing investors, recruited mainly by magazine advertisements, have so far raised nearly pounds 1m. The average investment is pounds 400 and there are no bank loans.

If the stores flourish they will be reviving a green consumer movement which went into reverse after the heady days of the late 1980s, when every major supermarket chain jumped on the green bandwagon.

Earlier this month a healthy eating and organic foods supermarket opened in Bayswater, London, run on commercial lines. Planet Organic hopes to open a second store in the capital next year.

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