Shame that quality doesn’t count

Your correspondent Robert Crosbie (letters, August 16) takes a rather simplistic look at Galashiels’ shopping problems after another store closes in the town centre.

He says we shouldn’t blame the arrival of Tesco and Asda for the demise of local shops and smaller national outlets. He says we should look at the loss of disposable income in the area and, of course, to a degree, he is right. There are far fewer jobs in the Borders now than there were only a few years ago when the textile trade and then electronics employed thousands.

Mr Crosbie says that shoppers use these huge stores by choice. When it comes to cost they have no choice as the big boys can undercut any local business by the amount that they buy nationally and internationally for distribution, and to keep their shareholders happy.

It is no accident that Tesco is one of the most successful companies in the retail trade, but that is at the cost of huge losses elsewhere as local butchers, bakers, grocers and greengrocers close their doors and owners very often end up bankrupt.

Tesco isn’t interested in taking over part of the high streets of our towns. It wants it all. Witness the non-food lines Tesco now carries and see also the insurance, banking and even motor trade departments it also runs.

Asda used to be Associated Dairies and was an integral part of trading across Britain. Now it is part of the American company Wallmart and that firm’s ethos is exactly the same as Tesco – “we want it all”.

Those of us with slightly longer memories than Mr Crosbie will remember the success of the textile trade in the Borders. Firms like Laidlaw & Fairgrieve, George Roberts, Gibson & Lumgair, Peter Scott, Wilson and Glennie. All of these were well-known and respected throughout the world.

What happened? Along came a multi-national retail company and asked Border mills and factories to produce knitwear and tweed goods to its quality control specifications. That meant ditching long-term contracts with customers of repute. The new contracts only lasted until the wind changed and those famous mills were left high and dry with no customers after fashions saw habits moved on by the same multi-nationals.

Does that have any bearing on habits today?

Ask the farmers who are being asked to produce milk for less than they did 20 years ago. Perhaps we should be allowed to buy milk at the farm road end again and cut out the supermarkets.

And what happened to quality Borders beef and lamb? No longer seen as we don’t even have an abattoir locally.

Shame on us all for abandoning quality for cheap foreign imports.

Kenneth Gunn