Saturday, 16 November 2013

Morrison’s, Retail in Ramsgate and at Westwood, Bookshops, Technology and a general ramble.

I guess most people will be aware the community cafe in Ramsgate called The Kitchen has closed, I think this was due to some sort of government cut, however as like Morrison’s supermarket it was part of the old Olby builders merchant building I do wonder if Morrison’s will expand into this as well.

I think Morrison’s may have made a bit of a mistake there as their shop seems to be mostly almost empty with one cashier on one till, while over the road at Iceland four ques on four tills seems to be the norm. Pretty much the opposite to the situation in Margate where Morrison are opposite Iceland and it is Morrison’s that seem to be much busier.

Why Morrison’s thought that a Morrison’s local would work in that site surrounded by very price conscious competition I just don’t know, I would have thought with a bit of reconfiguration over the four floors they could have a conventional supermarket there and that it would do very well indeed.

Here in my secondhand bookshop taking the bold step of repricing all the books so they are cheaper than you could buy them online seems to have worked out ok. I thought that we were going to have problems sourcing replacement stock, but it is the our competition, the internet itself that has resolved the problem. I will endeavour to explain:

I have taken the book Flags of Our Fathers off the shelf to make the point, although a great many other books in my shop would make the same point.

This came out in paperback in 2000 priced a £10, at that time we would have bought it for £2.50 and priced it at £5, expecting it to sell at that price, it’s just a fairly normal slightly specialist WW2 military history book, the bread and butter of the secondhand book trade.

Being about an inch thick means that it would cost you about £3 to post to someone, looking on Amazon, with the exception of a seller with only 94% positive feedback who is selling a copy for around £2, it is obvious from both the Amazon listings and the sold listings on Ebay that this book can be bought in reasonable condition for just under £3 including postage.

We have a copy on the shelf that looks as though it may have had one careful read priced at £2.50, it was £5 but I reduced it during the big price cull. Of course the big sellers and Amazon itself can do a deal with the post office but if you want to sell it on Ebay once you have included the postage it becomes too expensive for it to sell. I should stress here I don't want to by this book for the one simple reason which is I already have it in stock.   

So you have no chance of selling it online, which means your only option is to sell it to your local secondhand bookshop for £1.25, and hopefully they will be able sell it at the competitive price of £2.50.

On to technology, which is a story of three computers, the three computers that I am using to write this post - it’s too busy to get much done in the bookshop today - so the post is just filling in between other things.

One of these computers is a conventional tower computer at the till desk in my bookshop, another of these computers is my android phone and the third is the computer that the document is being typed on, I have never seen this computer although I use it a lot, It belongs to Google and is where the Google Drive Documents are stored.

For some time recently I have been telling people to to upgrade their phones to and internet enabled smartphone and in many cases this has fallen on deaf ears because people who have only got conventional mobile phones think that a smartphone is primarily a phone.

What I should be saying is that they should be getting the pocket gadget that is the technological equivalent of a Swiss Army knife. Computer, camera, TV, walkman, torch and of course phone.

We had a bit of an impasse replacing smartphones in the family recently, after some difficulty I found a cheap one that does the job and as we are now using three of the same model, two being used by 12 year old children I can recommend them.

So if like us you hardly ever use the phone as a conventional phone, using the Skype app for free calls and WhatsApp for free texting and expect to use a pay as you go phone with internet as a cheap extra. Then my recommendations may suit you.  

You need to use T-mobile and buy from them, either via their website or a phone shop the Samsung Fame pay as you go phone this will cost just under £100 + £10 credit you then need to put £20 credit on it and get the six month internet connection for £20 you need to text 6MONTHWEB to 441

Of course there are plenty of other plans and phones that will do all this, but if you are starting out then this seems to be about the cheapest and the phone seems to work well and reliably.

If you don’t use the internet much you can even use your phone as a router to connect your laptop to the internet, if like me you use the internet a lot make sure you activate the phone's WIFI and also put the the cloud app on it so that  your phone connects to the internet via wifi for nothing when you near to Cafe Nero et al.

But yes having got a google account and put the Google Drive app on your phone, you can write a document, like this one using either you phone or your conventional computer, write it with one and you can watch it change, letter by letter, word by word on the other.

Putting the Google+ app on your phone means the photos and videos from your phone camera go straight onto the internet, so you don't have to plug your phone into your computer to get to your pictures.  

Anyway so much for the phone thing which i did because I have discussed with several people recently and said to them that I would stick the instruction on the blog.

The rubbish issue is still ongoing with King Street in Ramsgate having to put their rubbish out by 6am on market day and the rubbish not being collected until the afternoon, crazy in a shopping street and impossible if you are disabled or have a pushchair to get along the pavements.   

One does wonder if the council would prefer it if there weren't any shops here, admittedly it doesn't make a lot of difference to us as book collectors know I have a lot of collectible books which I don’t list on the internet.    

There is a new Polish deli opening in Ramsgate high Street sooon.
A new shop at Westwood, I think this is the old Comet building B&M Bargains, despite saying opening soon on one side of the sign and now open on the other, it is actually open. 

I may ramble on here.


  1. It seems Michael that Shopping streets unless specialist are evolving and shrinking. The type of High Street I remember are largely disappearing due to inability to park. What we have is a plethora of specialist outlets and in Margate this seems to be quite popular with locals and tourists alike.

    1. The High Streets you remember, Barry, people walked to so didn't need to park. My dear old mother used to walk to the shops in her local high street well into her eighties as she had done all her life. Perhaps the motor car is the cause of the decline for, without it, people would not be able to get to out of town malls.

      Yesterday I went into Broadstairs High Street, got meat by weight from the butcher, bread from the baker, fruit and veg from the greengrocer and just a couple of grocery items from the small Tesco. That is proper shopping and I didn't pay to park anywhere.

    2. William it isnt only the car that is the issue it is also one of convenience. one stop shopping equals less time. When I stayed in Ramsgate as a nipper my GGrandfather walked into town and back. But that was then, when you both work 9-5 shopping is impossible.
      As I said earlier highstreets are changing becoming more specialist and smaller in size

    3. Not disagreeing, Barry, but I still feel there is a place for the butcher, baker and greengrocer in the high street, as of course we have in both Broadstairs and Ramsgate. I prefer meat from the butcher at the quantity I need without all the plastic packaging and the same is true of the fruit. Do agree with you though that the out of town super store has become the place for the bulk shop.

    4. You're fortunate to live within walking distance of a high street William. In many smaller villages (Manston, Acol, Monkton, Stourmouth and Woodnesborough amongst them) there's NO shops anymore. So whether driving or getting a bus / taxi, a big supermarket is the most attractive choice.

    5. Peter, I do live about a mile from the High Street, but we have a road in Broadstairs, a turning off the High Street, that allows an hour free parking. That is where I usually park and get my bits of shopping done within that hour. Agree with you about the villages, but, even in days of yore, the best most had was a little convenience shop. Country living has always involved a trip to the nearest town for the main shopping. When I was a child I used to walk, or bus, with my mother the three miles into Cranleigh from the little village we lived in so it is nothing new.

    6. Depends what you call a "village'... Most people would call Garlinge a village, but as recently as the late 80s the High Street alone had 3 small supermarkets, 2 greengrocers, a post office, a bakers, a butchers and a large hardware store amongst other shops. I very rarely shopped elsewhere during those 3 years I lived there (1987 - 1990), and I only ever ventured into Margate for things like clothes, records and books. I believe that the village of St. Peters was similarly self-contained at one time too.

    7. I was referring to the more rural village rather than town suburbs which places like St. Peters and Garlinge have become. Many of such never had more than a convenience shop/PO and a pub and a trip to town once a week was part of country life. Now, many of those same villages have neither a shop/PO or a pub which is rather sad.

      St. Peters, mind you, still has quite a few shops including a decent sized Co-op, pharmacy and half a dozen others ranging from hairdressers to florist. Those who choose to can still get their daily needs in the village.

    8. I really think that Tesco, Morrisons, etc are missing a trick by not opening small stores in some of the current "no shops" villages. OK, perhaps not Stourmouth (population too small) or Monkton (too near Minster), but certainly places like Acol and Woodnesborough where it's beyond comfortable walking distance to the nearest shops and there's plenty of (potential) passing trade from the many cars that go through there. I doubt if they'd be much opposition either (if had the money to open a small newsagents & supermarket then I'd choose somewhere like Acol rather than Margate High Street!).

  2. Think you'll find Michael that Morrisons will stay under 3000Sq ft so they don't fall under the more restrictive trading restrictions on "large" shops 3000sqft and over.

    High Streets are disappearing because people want to shop in large supermarkets, under one roof all in one go, they don't want to slog up and down the High Street paying over the odds just so some locals can preserve what they think is an ideal town in aspic.

  3. I can remember my Grandmother slogging up and down Ramsgate town centre laden with shopping, and having to walk home because the bus did not go there. There was an exception with 'Home and Colonial' who would deliver your shopping for a 1/-. She would have liked Westwood Cross with its cheaper prices and free bus service. Though she did enjoy Henekey's.

    Say what you will compared to the likes of Westward Cross the Town Centre has little to offer, other than nostalgia and this fades with each new generation. Put a Rooks, a couple of butchers, greengrocers and bakers at Westwood Cross and it is likely that I would never shop in Town again. Save for Waitrose, which is always special, and where I can also park for free.

    I can mourn the passing of the High St but then I do not have to use it to shop for a family of four.

  4. Margate Old Town has in my view got it right with its specialist shops, which are in the main unique - especially 'Danish Collectibles', newly opened under the Old Pie Factory.

    I enjoy Margate Old Town.

  5. I have the same memories Mr Holyer, just of various South London High streets. Getting dragged out to go shopping on a saturday morning, and slogging up and down a cold rainy High Street, battling many others doing the same, then waiting in misery for the bus home. Whilst looking back through the rose tinted specs, great days of childhood, it's no surprise that supermarkets were and are welcomed, and have taken the huge market share that they have.

    Whilst still using a small butcher and greengrocer, 90% of our shopping is done in supermarkets of one kind or another, it's cheap, easy. supplies a huge amount of local jobs, and it's convenient. Who wants to drag screaming kids all round town on a wet and cold saturday afternoon, so they can "enjoy" being over charged in the local shops some would seem to want to thrust down our throats at any cost.

    Progress is made because people want progress. Tesco's/Sainsburys/Asda/Morrisons etc didn;t grow to their HUGE size by forcing people to shop there, they provided and still provide what people want.

  6. Places like Margate old town, The Pantiles Royal Tunbridge Wells, Canterbury, Old Rochester High Street etc etc thrive because they have embraced change, and found out what people want, then provided it. Want people simply don't want to do, and haven;t for many years is slog up and down a Hugh Street when they are buying beans and fish fingers!

  7. I guess here in the real world of now, living in Ramsgate and doing the family shop is a bit different, as a child I remember, the butcher, baker and milkman delivering and the grocer sending a man in a bowler hat to take the grocery order, which was delivered by a man in a brown coat. We normally do most of our food shopping in Ramsgate, the three main supermarkets, Waitrose, Aldi and Asda by car and the town centre on foot, mainly I guess because we get best value for money that way.

    We occasionally do a big supermarket, more for a bit of variety than anything else, the fact remains that with five supermarkets, two butchers, two greengrocers, two bakers, a fishmongers various places selling the soft soap of life Ramsgate is still a serious contender and generally cheaper than you could do using one of the large supermarkets.

    I guess a fundamental issue here is doing the shopping the same way every time with the limited alternative leisure activities in east Kent is just plain boring.

    My guess is that over the next two or three years we will see a lot more problems in the non food retail sector with a fair chance that it is the out of town shops that will next suffer the worst of this. The alternative would be non food manufacturers taking some action that would mean real shops could compete with the internet, if they don’t then they are going to have problems launching new products on the principle that if you can’t handle them first you may not buy them at all.

    Part of the above post is about smartphones, most of us spend a lot of money on these and yet it is very difficult to try them before you buy them and I guess most of us have tried browsing books online and are reduced to doing the browsing in waterstones and the buying online, point the smartphone camera at the barcode and press the “buy it now button”?

  8. Fact is, like it or not, people love supermarkets, if they didn't, they wouldn't have such an enormous market share. I'm not sure that many shop, looking for an exeperience that isn't boring, merely cheap, convenient and accessible. As you live on the High Street as it were Michael, they could apply to the High Street shops in your case, but few live on the High Street.

  9. I suppose John that King Street is near enough to the High Street, but as I said the main supermarket shop we normally do in the main Ramsgate supermarkets and by car. Time was when doing one large out of town supermarket did the trick, but family shops are often about ongoing commodities like Hinds tomato soup, normally costs about 80p a tin and when on special costs about 50p, Coke a Cola is an easy one for me to explain here I think the recommended retail is about £1 per litre we seldom pay more then 50p a litre, I just buy about 50 litres when it is on special. The point of this being, that if unlike our main politicians you do actually know the price of bread and milk, you can do a lot better price wise buying from the three smaller supermarkets in Ramsgate than going to one big out of town one. Doing the three big out of town ones is just too much of a marathon. Meat wise, we are entertaining this weekend quite a few children are involved and children tend to be fussy, however, because of Christmas there are few children who won’t eat roast turkey, a turkey breast roast from Rooks that feeds about 15 costs about £12, but it’s not just the price, the supermarkets only sell them at Christmas

  10. It may surprise you to learn that I agree with most of what you say Michael. As I don't live on top of the High Street, it's way more convenient to use an out of town in one trip, usually Tesco's, To be fair once I add up the extra time, petrol, aggravation etc of doing more than one "shed" it's really not worth me messing about going to different "sheds" although I do use Sainsburys from time to time as I love some of what they sell that Tesco's doesn't.

    Meat wise, I usually use a local butcher, as I am a bit if a meat nazi, veg, stock up at the shed, with extras through the weeks from greengrocer, bread, bakery EVERY time, except for sliced for toast from shed's.

    It's simply not worth the aggravation, time, grief, petrol and extra cost of dragging myself and/or mrs & kids up and down a High, stopped that many years ago.

    Is it a shame, in so far as it's a shame that you can no longer get donkey rides on the beach, clip naughty kids round the ear, go out for a great night, get drunk and laid, and a bus home all with change from a £5 note, send your kids to buy cigarettes and when books were only sold in bookshops, but can we turn the clock back, would we want to, no, life moves on, and the shopping experience we have today is the one WE have chosen by choosing to abandon local shops in favour of the huge sheds of the multiples.


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