Archive for the ‘Supermarkets’ Tag

Scarpellini — Supermarkets italiani   Leave a comment

The first supermarkets in Italy were the product of a combination of American know-how and Italian improvisation. In her fascinating history of the Italian supermarket chain now known as Esselunga, Emanuela Scarpellini shows how the modern food retailer par excellance, the supermarket, was adapted to Italian social and political conditions in the 1960s.

The project was the result of a study of the International Basic Economy Corporation, itself the brainchild of American industrialist Nelson Rockefeller. Rockefeller wanted to promote the American business model abroad without giving handouts: thus the IBEC would start joint ventures inforeign countries, providing American know-how and managerial organization while leaving most of the logistical work to foreign personnel, who of course had better knowledge of the local business environment.In this case, IBEC provided 51% of the capital, whereas the rest of the startup money (and company stock) was from local investors.

Several modifications to the Americans’ original plan were crucial to the eventual success of the enterprise. First, the Italian investors vetoed the name proposed by the Americans for the chain of five supermarkets, Mercado. They insisted on an English name: Supermarket. The Italians also advocated a decor that was not too nice, in order to avoid scaring away working-class customers who might have been intimidated by a “rich-looking” store. The stores, despite their early success, also did not advertise for a long time, as Italians at the time perceived advertising as the last gasp of a business in trouble.

Most of the article deals with the opening not of the first five stores in Milan, but with the work required to expand into Florence’s retail market. Bureaucratic delays, union and shopkeeper association opposition, and political pressure were also successfully dealt with so that the opening days of all the Florence outlets were mobbed by curious Florentines. Low cost and quality products were the two pillars of a winning pitch to Italians, who had been heretofore used to shopping in small Mom&Pop stores.

Scarpellini, in listing the obstacles faced by the supermarkets managers, shows how what has been seen as an immutable international model, the supermarket, in reality had to change to establish a beachhead in Italy. (Emanuela Scarpellini, “Shopping American-Style: The Arrival of the Supermarket in Italy,” in Enterprise and Society, Vol.5 No. 4, 2004, pp.625-668)  ZN

Grazie a Gabriella Paiella per la segnalazione.

Posted December 13, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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Comment: Supermarkets vs. Mom&Pop   Leave a comment

This post is something from an article in La Repubblica (5 Aug 2010, pp.30-31), but I couldn’t rightly describe it as “News” as it is hardly a novel piece of information. The article, written by Ettore Livini, discusses the recent changes in the food purchasing habits of the Italians. Unsurprisingly, there has been, between 1996 and 2009, a huge shift towards buying food in sueprmarkets. In 1996 Italians bought 40.6% of their pears, prosciutto, and pecorino at the mom&pop in their neighborhood, while 50.2% of their food purchases were at supermarkets (the remaining percentage was from the internet and itinerant sellers). Only thirteen years later 70.8% of food is bought in supermarkets, leaving only 18.8% in “traditional grocery stores.”

The article points out that Italians have ever less time and money, and the supermarket is the perfect response to both of those problems. The problem is that a huge distribution comes with hidden costs, both economic and organaleptic: pears, for example, are picked when “hard as marble” to be ripe when they finally arrive at their supermarket basket. The Spanish have been creative in their solution to this need: small producers band together and plant different varieties to ensure a three-month long “season.” Small Italian producers have yet to organize onthis level. There is hope–the article cites local markets, fair trade, and an appreciation for what I call “philological food” (i.e. supposedly “traditional” foods)–but it can hardly be doubted that the trend is towards the extinction of these small grocery stores, however pleasant the service or ripe the tomatoes.  ZN

Posted December 7, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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News: Mom and Pop Shops Close   Leave a comment

Italians bid arrivederci to Mom-and-Pop grocers: The number of supermarkets surges after the law allowed the mixing of products, fostering one-stop shopping.

Los Angeles Times by Frances D’emilio February 16, 2003

Rome – Mom and pop are closing up shop, hanging up their prosciutto knives, bagging the last plump tomatoes and calling it a day. Or, rather, a lifetime, as they take off their white grocers’ aprons for good.

In ancient city alleys as well as suburban malls across Italy, supermarkets are luring customers away from family-run neighborhood shops with lower prices and more convenient hours, defying skeptics who thought that Italians would never abandon generations-old shopping habits.

Decades after French, German, British and other Europeans became supermarket regulars, Italians from police officers on lunch breaks to grandmothers cooking for two generations are increasingly walking right past the mom-and-pops and through the automatic doors of the chain stores.

Supermarkets “wiped us out,” said Silvana Moscatelli, who, after 44 years of grating Parmesan and cutting crusty bread in her store in Rome, rolled down the shutters for vacation last summer and never rolled them back up.

“We were putting in 14 hours a day for a fistful of flies,” Moscatelli said bitterly. “We’d see our old customers walk by with supermarket shopping bags.”

The number of supermarkets has surged 74%, from 3,696 in 1996 to 6,413 in 2000, says Confcommercio, an Italian business lobby. In the decade through 2001, the number of small food shops slumped 24%, from roughly 254,000 to 193,000, said Confesercenti, a small businesses lobby.

Confesercenti estimates that 50% of Italian purchases of food and other household goods are now made in supermarkets or superstores.

In great measure, the supermarket success story reflects Italy’s changing demographics and economics.

Generations of homemakers bought bread, cheese, produce and meat in a daily ritual, a chatty, time-consuming procession from one neighborhood store to the next.

Until a few years ago, Italian laws forbade food shops from mixing their products. Bakeries, for example, couldn’t sell fruit, and vegetable stands couldn’t carry eggs.

But with both spouses often working these days, there’s less time for all those stops to buy bread, let alone fettuccine, fish, fruit, and the detergent to wash the dishes from three-course dinners.

And in the last decade or so, supper has increasingly supplanted lunch as the main meal of the day.

That means that more workers are eating near their workplaces, often picking up ready-to-eat salads or sandwich fixings at supermarkets, which, unlike the mom-and-pops, don’t close for lunch.

Many supermarkets are open on Sunday too. Family-run stores rarely are.

Consumers say the bottom line is price.

Vincenzo De Fiore, a doorman for 34 years at a palazzo in an upscale neighborhood near the Pantheon in Rome, said his wife used to shop every day in the nearest outdoor market, at Campo Dei Fiori, as pricey as it is picturesque.

“We have blue-collar pay but we were shopping in a place for signori, ” said De Fiore, who has an apartment in the palazzo.

No more. His wife goes to a supermarket that opened a block away, and offers fresh fish and produce.

Antonio Tiberi, who runs a tiny grocery with his brother just down the block from that supermarket, said that had he known the store was going to open, he would have never set up shop in the neighborhood seven years ago.

With half a dozen supermarkets now within strolling distance of his shop, he worries about his business as well as the character of the elegant, leisurely paced neighborhood.

“With all these supermarkets, we’ll be a cold city, like in England,” he said. “We’ll lose that human dimension. My customers chat with me. Supermarkets don’t have time for that.”

The new supermarket down the street — DiperDi, Italian for “day by day” — is a franchise operation affiliated with the French supermarket giant Carrefour. DiperDi has attractive prices and offers old-fashioned home delivery, a plus for Romans who live in centuries-old buildings without elevators.

“We strongly advise [the franchisees] which prices to post. We see the prices in the piazzas, in the neighborhood markets,” Luigi Vialardi, director of neighborhood stores and wholesaling for Carrefour Italia, said from his office in Turin.

Even the people of Italy’s south, where social traditions tend to be stronger, have opened up to supermarkets, Vialardi said.

Mauro Bussoni, a Confesercenti official, said that in allowing supermarkets, government authorities were betting that the new stores would generate more jobs than they might eliminate.

Among the newest on the supermarket payrolls are Silvana Moscatelli’s husband and son, who worked in the family store before it closed last summer.

Posted October 20, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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