Thursday, October 18, 2012

A supermarket on every corner


Well, it’s official. We are now almost completely surrounded by supermarkets on our city block (three of four corners are occupied), so that soon it will be impossible for me to leave my house without encountering a supermarket. The Turkish convenience store with its friendly proprietors and wonderful variety on one corner closed a few months ago after losing its license to sell beer. And as is always the case when that happens in Norway, they go out of business rather quickly, whether or not they are a small grocery store or a restaurant. You cannot survive without the beer or liquor sales. The same will happen to one of my favorite pizza restaurants right down the road from us; they lost their liquor license a few months ago and that will most likely be their death knell.

Back to the supermarkets. I googled supermarkets in Norway and retrieved this Wikipedia listing. This then is a list of supermarket chains in Norway, broken down into Discount stores, Supermarkets, Hypermarkets, and Convenience stores. To me, they’re all variants on the same theme—supermarkets, large or small.

·         Discount: Bunnpris, Coop Marked, Coop Prix, Kiwi, REMA 1000, RIMI, Rimi Stormarked
·         Supermarkets: Centra, Coop Mega, ICA Gourmet, ICA Supermarked, Meny, SPAR, Ultra
·         Hypermarkets: ICA Maxi, Coop Obs!, Smart Club
·         Convenience Stores: ICA Nær, Joker, 7-eleven, Narvesen

I wouldn’t mind being surrounded by supermarkets if they offered a real variety of groceries, in other words, if they were different from each other. But they are not. Two of the supermarkets are the same chain—Joker (I know, what a name); the other one is Bunnpris (literally translated as ‘bottom price’). I have no major problems with any of them, just that they all offer homogeny. It’s all the same, a standardized foodstuff menu with limited choices. If you want slightly more variety and breadth of choice, you have to go elsewhere, like ICA Maxi, Centra or Meny. Thank God they exist. What makes me laugh is that this is such a small country; at last count, roughly 5 million people. Why do we need so many supermarkets? Soon there will be one supermarket per 100 people or per one large apartment building. I’m not joking. I cannot understand how they all can turn a profit. I’m not sure it matters to the food chain owners, who are wealthy beyond belief. All I can say is, ‘oh bliss--I no longer have to walk too far to find a grocery store’ (a little sarcasm never hurts). 

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