A further thing regarding the ‘eggs by the kilo’ story occurred to me last night as I was selecting some supermarket steaks. Steaks are sold by weight, and although the packs are all the same size the price (and weight) of the meat within can vary quite considerably- so much so that my preferred method of steak selection starts with looking for the highest prices, before other factors like marbling etc.
I don’t think anybody has been seriously expecting that the EU’s latest daft-sounding regulation will affect the number of eggs in your box, it will still contain six, ten or twelve eggs but (like steaks or pork chops) each box will have to be individually priced. It’s not a Big Thing in itself, supermarkets already have the infrastructure in place to sell products in this way, corner shops will probably have the work done supplier-side and the net result will probably be to make accounting slightly more complicated (and therefore slightly more expensive). The biggest losers will be farm shops and they can easily cope by adding another setting to the electric scales they undoubtably already own for selling fruit and veg. Of itself, this seemingly bizzare regulation is unlikely to cause too much disruption to either shoppers or retailers.
However, taken as part of the wider trend it suddenly looks a lot worse, as part of the death by a thousand cuts to small businesses, regulations like this and WEEE and tobacco display bans and minimum alcohol prices and a multitude of others each apply small reductions in the profitability of Big Retail’s smaller, more agile competitors while the likes of Tesco either have the weight infrastructure already in place or enough redundancy in their system to take up the extra workload.
Companies like Tesco aren’t the problem however. Whether they lobby for regulation (as they did with the minimum pricing story), have a quiet word with the powers that be behind the scenes or simply sit back and take advantage of the situation Big Retail acts in Big Retail’s best interests which is exactly how it should be. Tesco has a responsibility to Tesco’s shareholders to maximise profits. Suggesting that they act otherwise would be akin to suggesting a tiger refuse to take advantage of its prey having a gammy leg because it’s ‘not sporting’ and sounds a little bit commie to me. The problem really lies with the States both National and Supernational that create the prevailing conditions, and with the pooulations that allow this to happen. Boycotts are useless. Take the alcohol pricing issue: even if there were enough outraged bloggers to seriously reduce Tesco to its knees over the issue then Sainsbury or Morrisons would simply take up their place, if indeed they are not already making quiet noises in the ears of those who need little persuasion anyway.