When we need bread and milk, we’re quick to jump in our cars, flip our keys in the engine and trod off to the nearest Coles or Woolworths to restock our pantries. And sure, the supermarket giants are convenient and accessible, but what about the smaller, independent grocers that depend on our support?
When you support a local business, you literally support a local family and potentially a person’s dream. The produce is more likely to be locally sourced, creating somewhat of a domino effect of local benefit; this includes keeping the profits of those stores in the local community. In comparison, more than half of the profits skimmed by larger corporations leave the local economy. Often, local prices are actually competitive, meaning it doesn’t cost you much extra – if any – to support your local grocers.
Chattr spoke to the family-run LaManna & Sons, a South Yarra-based greengrocer, about what independent grocers have to offer the community:
What are the benefits of grocery shopping at local, smaller stores compared to the main players like Coles and Woolworths that people may not be aware of?
For many local, independent greengrocers, the focus is quality and service – fundamental values that have seemingly slipped away from the large supermarket chains.
The main players like Coles and Woolworths will struggle to compete with an independent, family operation (which we represent at LaManna & Sons) for the freshest and best quality products, and genuine customer service – our main advantages.
A common belief is that smaller supermarkets are more expensive to shop at than their larger competitors. What would you say to people who hold this belief?
At LaManna we strive to stay competitive with the large chains – we have successfully maintained this since we opened our doors two years ago. We are considerably cheaper on many lines – we do daily and weekly specials just like the majors do and we are unbeatable.
We have a bargain table – a huge hit for our customers – and it gives all our produce a second chance. Let it be a softer tomato or a banana with a small mark – we have a no-waste policy.
At the end of the day, fresh, top quality produce should actually cost a little more, and it is worth paying the difference. After all, the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the price is forgotten.
What are the main challenges you face as a small player in an industry dominated by larger players?
Of course, we were concerned about the strength of the majors. The biggest problem is that Woolworths has over 1000 stores, so naturally they have a greater buying power and are able to pay less for certain products.
In saying that, we arrive at the Epping Wholesale Market every morning just shy of 2 am, and in doing so have developed the mentality and the drive to taste-test and buy the absolute best quality produce available; and sometimes for the best, it will cost a little more. But a little extra cost means better quality and longer-lasting fruit and vegetables. We ensure that we always have the freshest stuff in our store, and majority of the time, the produce from the market is on the shelves 3-4 hours after we have purchased it. For the likes of the majors, the fruit and vegetables can be up to three days old. You can taste the difference.
So, next time your pantry is running a little bare, consider paying a visit to your local greengrocer, butcher or baker instead of supporting the dominating corporations.