The Third Leader: Supermarket sweep

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The Independent Online

Grocery is much in the news. While Tesco strives to inhabit yet more of the country, and the manoeuvrings for control of Sainsbury's continues, we also await the result of the Competition Commission's inquiry into the sector.

So far, so not necessarily to the grocers' good, nor markedly different from the usual attention, which, it is fair to say, is not generally admiring. Excellent timing, then, that the gift to the nation by the late Simon Sainsbury of £100m of paintings should emerge now.

Determined grocerists will maintain that Sainsbury benevolence is atypical, but I, as a member of a grocering family myself (but without the Bacon), would argue that the wider provisions of the trade have not been confined to the one concern. Where would we be without the skills and restraint honed by trolley usage? Whose geography – and sense of amazement – has not been stimulated by many of the labels? Whose life has not been given extra edge by sell-by dates? Where better to ponder on Life Today than the check-out queue? Were you aware that The Worshipful Company of Grocers helped start the Samaritans?

Balance demands I also note that it was a Grocer, Philpot, who slew Wat Tyler, leader of the Peasants' revolt, and that another, Sir Thomas Alleyn, appears to be an ancestor of George Bush. But nor should we forget that John Heminges edited the First Folio; nor that this is a business which can inspire and embrace such diverse figures as Simon Sainsbury, Ronnie Barker, Dale Winton, and Captain Birdseye. Another one for the check-out queue.

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