Consumer Conundrum: Retail Supply and Demand

The selection of apples available in Waitrose last week looked like this:

There were plenty of varieties to choose from, but not one of them had been grown in the UK.

And why aren’t there any simple fold-up picnic chairs in either of my two local two branches of Homebase, or in B&Q?  I can purchase a set of four chairs with a table and umbrella at B&Q, but the chairs aren’t for sale individually. There are no deck chairs either, but brightly coloured sunloungers are available in abundance.

Is this a reflection of the general state of British retailing?

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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

13 thoughts on “Consumer Conundrum: Retail Supply and Demand

    Sir Watkin
    June 21, 2011 at 12:51

    Errrr ….

    As far as apples are concerned it’s a reflexion of reality.

    British apples are so far out of season that even if there were any left in store they would be of poor quality.

    I believe it’s called “seasonality”, and quite fashionable nowadays ….

    June 21, 2011 at 13:00

    Quite so Sir Watkin! Oddly I was thinking about apples, and how they’re not worth buying at this time of year, just as this post appeared. The English summer apples seem to get earlier and earlier each year, so there won’t be that long to wait. Meanwhile there are peaches and apricots and cherries – who needs apples?

  3. Worm
    June 21, 2011 at 13:12

    Personally I avoid all fruit, can’t be trusted in my book. Especially with meat. But I have educated my wife about the difference between a spanish strawberry and a proper british strawberry grown in season – she was amazed at the difference and would never buy spanish strawberries again

    I think it’s all to do with the shift of consumer demand – previously we had no choice but to pay high prices, but in the process we got great personal service. Now we’ve signalled that we want the lowest price, so service and choice has gone out of the window to make savings elsewhere.

    …Which leaves a great opportunity for niche stores to market their individual and artisanal wares to a jaded public, whilst providing great service…much like a certain ShopCurious!

    June 21, 2011 at 13:19

    Our local Waitrose sells deck chairs.

    ian russell
    June 21, 2011 at 14:20

    Hmmm, Jazz apples. Nice.

    (actually, no, I don’t think so)

    It’s the bagging that gets me. Waitrose has those awful plastic jobs that men – I’m talking real men here – can’t fathom how to get inside. Though the upside is that by the time you’ve found a willing store lady or passing housewife to assist, you’ve realised your robust apples – or even your ”freshly baked” ciabatta rolls – don’t need no stinking bag anyway!

    Plus I hated to watch the housewife lick her fingers first..eurgh!!

      June 21, 2011 at 14:24

      I always thought that real men solved that prolbem with knives.

    June 21, 2011 at 14:35

    Returning to these shores after a sojourn outwith the reality sinks in even further, the fruit over here doesn’t taste like fruit whereas the fruit over there tastes as it should.
    Here endeth the first lesson, viz..add fruit to education, health and business, the stuff we don’t do any more.

    We ain’t got a Waitrose in the Scottish Borders, lots of Aldi and a new batch of Sainsbury’s, lower orders r us.

    June 21, 2011 at 15:23

    Curiously, Sir Watkin and Nige, a few weeks ago I was able to purchase English Braeburn apples. I’m not convinced it’s purely a question of climate… if they can grow apples in New Zealand, surely we can produce them here? Perhaps Worm has hit the nail on the head by mentioning cost effectiveness and price – though it would appear there’s plenty of choice, just not from our own growers.

    I haven’t seen any deckchairs in my local Waitrose, Adelephant. Don’t think those are out of season – probably just awaiting delivery from the Philippines. And I agree with you on the flavour factor, Malty, but sorry to hear you’re missing out on the Ostrich eggs…

    It’s not just a man thing, Ian, those bags unnecessarily prolong my weekly shop too. Which reminds me, the other day I was shopping for tomatoes on the stem in Waitrose (my mother’s tip is to remove them from the stems to reduce the weight you pay for..) when a helpful assistant came up and changed the advice label on the tray. Instead of saying that they came from the UK, it said they were from Holland – the very same tomatoes. Most curious!

    Sir Watkin
    June 21, 2011 at 15:33

    The English braeburns that Susan bought will have been the last of the stored ones (the main reason for this variety’s popularity is that it stores well).

    The N.Z. apples available now are from their recent autumn crop (the seasons being different there).

    john halliwell
    June 21, 2011 at 15:44

    I have a wonderful book by Sue Clifford and Angela King: ‘The Apple Source Book’, in which the authors celebrate the astonishing variety of the British apple. Apparently, you could eat a different kind of apple every day for six years and still not come to the end of the varieties that can be grown in the British Isles. Amazing! I don’t know whether a different apple a day for six years would keep umpteen doctors away or give you raging stomach ache, but I’d be willing to try it.

  10. Gaw
    June 21, 2011 at 17:51

    My brother made some cider last year using a rare Glaws breed of cider apple called Hen’s Turd. He reckons it was named that as outside of cider it tastes like sh*t. If truth be told the cider wasn’t great.

    English cherries are a wonderful treat right now.

      June 21, 2011 at 19:03

      Oo argh, ‘appen Oi’ve gart zum luvley ‘En’s Turrds fur ee, moi luvver….

    Hey Skipper
    June 22, 2011 at 03:39

    Personally I avoid all fruit, can’t be trusted in my book.

    Until properly fermented, that is.

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