23 May 2009

Shopping as it should be

Being a single man, living with a cat as my only companion, I do all the cooking and household chores that many other men have done for them by a woman. But I am not complaining. In fact, I like cooking and see it as one of the creative arts.

I also like to go shopping for groceries, which has of course to come before I can start cooking. And unlike many women I see in the supermarkets each week, filling their trolleys thoughtless and senseless with piles of expensive and unhealthy items of processed food, I am a discerning and selective shopper. I am also very price-conscious, a trait I have inherited from my mother.

So when I go shopping, I always look out for bargains or special offers, and in general I seek good value for my money. This does not mean that I always buy the cheapest items. Good value for money means getting quality for a fair price. As Ireland is quite an expensive country, with most things costing about twice as much as they cost in most other EU countries, it is worth to shop around.

Over the years I have developed personal shopping habits, buying a range of particular items in various shops, depending on quality and price. For my normal weekly grocery shopping I usually frequent three different local supermarkets (two Irish-owned and one foreign) and one small Polish shop that has opened here a few months ago and stocks certain continental delicacies one would not find in Irish shops or supermarkets.

One of the Irish supermarkets I use regularly is SuperValu, a chain of franchised stores under the umbrella of the Cork-based Musgrave Group. It is located in a small shopping centre, only a short walk from my house, and offers a wide range of quality food at fair prices.
The same also applies to the other two supermarkets I frequent, so I always decide carefully what I buy in one or in the others.

What makes SuperValu stand out from their competitors in recent weeks and months is their pro-active response to our current recession.

For the past nine months the Irish economy has not only seen a massive downturn in the wake of the global financial crisis, it has actually crashed and created widespread economic stagnation and the highest rate of unemployment this country has seen for decades.
Our current government, which is chiefly responsible for the terrible mess we are in, has no idea how to lead us out of it again. Facing a huge budget deficit - due to a drastic fall in tax revenue - Finance Minister Brian Lenihan just raises taxes all over the place and imposes extra levies on all those who still have a job. This gives him some extra money on the short-term, but it means of course that most people in Ireland have now less money in their pockets.
Subsequently everyone is tightening the proverbial belt and tries to spend less. And this has of course a direct and significant impact on all Irish shops and businesses.

People still need to eat, to wash their clothes and to clean their houses, but supermarkets and shops feel already the pinch of the nation's reduced spending power.
Some grocery shops just carry on as usual, hoping that people might still buy their products at the normal prices and make their personal spending cuts elsewhere. But the major supermarket chains are beginning to wake up and present their customers with ever more bargains and special offers.

This is a very welcome development and can only be further encouraged.

And though all supermarkets are making efforts now to retain their regular customers and gain new ones as well, the one that stands out from the rest and truly deserves a special mention is SuperValu.

Like most supermarkets, they always have - and had for years - special offers and promotions, usually on a weekly basis. But now SuperValu is going even a step further and offers special deals I have not seen anywhere else.
They actually give away certain food items for free, usually in very lucrative combination offers that are particularly suitable for families.

In recent weeks they offered nice cuts of Irish round roast (beef) at half of the normal price, and for every piece of meat one bought, one got either a small bag of potatoes, a bag of carrots, or a net of onions thrown in free of charge.

This is - in my humble opinion - the right attitude towards loyal customers and a proper and sensible reaction to the current recession and the general shortage of money in people's pockets. Or, to say it with SuperValu's own motto: Shopping as it should be.

When I went there yesterday and saw the week's specials, my heart actually leapt in joy. There were large bags of Irish apples and punnets with clementines, strawberries and blueberries on offer, and all of them for just € 1 each! There were also some other items available for the great price of € 1, including a pound of butter, a large bag of potato crisps (which I don't eat, although they are very popular in Ireland) and a litre block of vanilla ice cream.

I bought plenty of the fruit and went home with a heavy bag, but had actually spent less money than I would normally spend on a Friday. And I think that such commendable action by an Irish retailer deserves to be mentioned to the readers of this weblog.

I also obtained a brochure with special offers for next week, and they are again very attractive, but too many to mention them all here. However, let me tell you that they include sirloin steaks at half of the normal price, with a bag of chips thrown in free of charge for every purchase. So, if you want to treat yourself to a traditional Irish dinner of steak & chips, next week (May 25th - 30th) is the time to go shopping at SuperValu.

The Emerald Islander


P.S. To avoid any misunderstandings, I should mention here that I received no payment or compensation in kind for the article above. I wrote the piece because I think that in hard times, when money is tight and everyone is trying to make ends meet, one should know who cares for the needs of the nation. And when I see good deeds done, I like to share them with my readers, in the same way as I will always expose those who are trying to exploit or overcharge us.

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