I happen to live in East Grinstead, a mid-sized West Sussex market town; you may know it. And if you do, you’ll know that it’s an eclectic place filled with a wonderful mix of Turks, Poles, scientologists, Buddhists, tree huggers and people who send their children to schools that teach them how to hug trees. You name it, East Grinstead is a broad church. I’m told that it’s the ley line that runs right up the centre of the high street which accounts for much of this variety.
Personally, I love the diversity, and as we know, diversity is a good thing. But there’s one thing that East Grinstead lacks, and that’s a decent supermarket. Well, if you discount the excellent Waitrose, but that’s really just for those who don’t need to bother themselves with life’s irritations, like knowing the price of a loaf of bread.
No, for the majority of people living in the real world, East Grinstead is a veritable oasis when it comes to doing the weekly shop. Which is surprising when you come to think of it.
What it does have, however, is a branch of Sainsbury’s. And in common with many other Sainsbury’s, this is to supermarkets what Hannibal Lecter is to veganism. You get the picture. I meant to put this to Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe, when we had lunch not so long ago but tales of Brexit stockpiling and the (then) impending marriage with Asda, rather got in the way. Which is a pity because I could have described the awfulness of experiencing one of his stores on a weekly basis.
Because, as you may know, under his stewardship, Sainsbury’s have embarked on a programme which can only be described as being designed to explore the outer extremities of customer experience. It appears to be working, the latest figures show that sales are down 1.6 per cent.
Need avocados? Only on a Tuesday between 10 a.m. and midday. Berries? No chance unless it’s a full moon. And as for finding your favourite brand of yoghurt? Don’t even try.
All this rather came to mind earlier this week when I was enjoying a break in Barbados, that Caribbean island paradise, famous for rum punch, Sir Gary Sobers and Rihanna.
As always, the weather was amazing, but that wasn’t the only thing. I needed to venture to the local supermarket for one or two essentials I hadn’t packed and it was there that it suddenly became only too clear why Coupe’s next holiday really ought to be in Barbados.
You see, Barbados’ Massy Stores have managed to create supermarket heaven. Granted, much of the fresh produce hadn’t exactly become weary by their arduous journey, and the fish had probably just taken a bigger leap than usual to land in the fishmongers sea of ice, but more than that, this was a spectacularly presented store. Wherever one looked, there was something I’d grown unaccustomed to witnessing: fully stocked shelves.
In fact, the availability was incredible, especially when one considers the location. If Barbados ever did Brexit, the only stockpiling would most likely be on the mango trees which abound. And not only that, for I could take my basket with less than ten items and visit a (manned) checkout which was especially designed to serve other like-minded souls. For one grown accustomed to having to either queue behind someone with a trolley wilting under the strain of another oversized load or having to work the checkout myself, this was something of a luxury.
Launched in 2014 in Barbados, Massy Stores are located throughout the Caribbean. So, if you’re ever in Barbados, or St Lucia, or St Vincent or Trinidad and Tobago for that matter, and need to stock up on one or two essentials, it just might be worth you paying a visit.
Just don’t expect to pick them up in East Grinstead before you go. Seems a hurricane has swept through West Sussex and all the essentials have been blown west. Which is why my next weekly shop may take a little longer than usual.
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