My supermarket sweep

LIKE it or loathe it we all have to shop, but is it really worth driving to the supermarket? Does a typical Ipswich shopping street offer just as much choice - for less? We gave JAMES MARSTON a shopping list and challenged him to find out.

LIKE it or loathe it we all have to shop, but is it really worth driving to the supermarket?

Does a typical Ipswich shopping street offer just as much choice - for less? We gave JAMES MARSTON a shopping list and challenged him to find out.

IF I'm honest I don't really like shopping much.

Put it this way, it's not something I'd ever do at the weekend for leisure. However, I still have to eat so shopping is unavoidable.

I usually pop to the supermarket for bits and bobs?, but is it worth the petrol or could I manage with a quick walk round the corner?

Well I decided to find out how easy it is, and just as importantly, how much it costs to support your local shops. It was Monday morning, it was raining and it was not the most cheerful of days, but I still needed a few things. So shopping list in hand I went to test the independent shops in Nacton Road.

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Cottage Loaf Bakery looked as good a place to start as any. Warm and delicious-smelling inside, the ladies behind the counter were quick to come to my assistance. Following their recommendation I bought a large white farmhouse for a £1.

Baker Ian Barker has had the business for the last 18 months, after managing a branch of one of the UK's largest supermarket chains.

He said: “I was working 12-hour days and doing an hour's drive to get there each day. I thought if I'm going to do all these days then it might as well be for myself. We made some money on our house so I thought this bakery would be a chance for us to work for ourselves.”

He said: “This shop is accessible. A lot of supermarkets are out of town and if you're elderly or don't drive they are not always that easy to get to. We offer a personal service and I think our products are superior. I think supermarkets use quite inferior products because of the price of their bread.

“Of course we are going to be more expensive. I don't have the huge purchasing power that supermarkets have.”

The bakery is open every day except Sundays. He said: “We all support each other along here. The hairdressers buy their lunchtime rolls here, and we use the green grocers - it's convenient.”

Though concerned about the future of his business, Mr Barker said he thinks people will always want independent shops hear to where they live. He added: “If people don't support their local shops then they won't have them in the future. We are competing with the supermarkets and it is hard to make a living. People seem to prefer to get in their cars and drive to the supermarket to save a quid but they have had to fill up their car with petrol first.”

A little way down the road on the corner of Benacre Road and Nacton Road, is Ideal Stores run by owner Nishan Singh for five years.

He said: “I think people like the fact the owner is in the shop, and there is a personal service.”

Mr Singh, 31, then asked me what I was after, before going to the shelves to collect them for me. I pick up a carton of milk, a bit of cheese and some pasta, and it all comes to £3.92.

He added: “The area around here has changed a lot in the last five years and there are less and less shops like mine left. A lot of the elderly customers have passed away. Coming here saves time and its better to walk for the environment.”

Mr Singh said making a profit was increasingly difficult. He said: “Rates and insurances have gone up more than income. We don't have the purchasing power of the large supermarkets and there is only one wholesaler left in Ipswich so there isn't the competition to give shopkeepers a good price.

“My grandfather started a business in Ipswich 35 years ago, and I'd like to think we will be staying here as long.”

It's back up the road again, past the pub, the pharmacy, the takeaways, and into G.S.K'S for a bottle of wine. I manage to pick up a Jacob's Creek bottle of red for £5.99.

Remaining on my list is a pound of sausages and half a pound of bacon. The butcher though is shut as its Monday. I am used to the 24-hour-world of the supermarkets, so this is a bit of a surprise.

A quick trip to Sainsbury's up the road revealed everything I needed on the list - for just over £14 - and it was all under one roof. Of course I didn't get much personal service. No one said 'hello' when I walked in, and nobody went and found my shopping for me.

For a small list it proved to be quite competitive to use the local shops.

It proved to be cheaper to supermarket shop, but not by much and I conclude it all depends where you live as to how much extra money you'd spend on petrol or bus fare to get there.

Of course if you are buying more than the ten items I researched, the supermarket saving would increase proportionately.

N Do you support local shops? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

Britons spent £120bn in supermarkets in 2004, accounting for half their total shopping bill

About 75per cent of those purchases were made in stores bigger than 280 square metres

Tesco has increased its market share from 25pc in 2002 to more than 30pc in 2005 - twice the market share of its

nearest competitor

Asda had a 16.5pc share. Sainsbury's had 15.9pc and Morrisons 11.3pc

Tesco's dominance of the retail sector was reinforced by figures announced last October which showed profits of £1.09bn from six months' trading. from worldwide sales of £22.7bn.

Tesco's UK sales hit £17.4bn in the half year ended August, equivalent to £67,000 per minute and £1,117 each second.

Tesco has 1,932 stores in the UK and 600 overseas Tesco has increased its penetration across the UK, and is now the dominant retailer in 67 per cent of postcodes and the 2nd retailer in a further 20 per cent.

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