Have Fun Learning English
British Culture, British Customs and British Traditions
Shopping in Britain
With dictionary look up - Double click on any word for its definition.
This section is in advanced English and is only intended to be a guide, not to be taken too seriously!
The small shop
Britain was once known as a nation of shop keepers, however the small shop in the UK is almost a thing of the past. Many villages have lost their local corner shop or post office because of competition from the supermarkets and out- of-town shopping centres.
Small shops are often run by families operating as sole traders or partnerships. They usually specialise in a small range of goods, e.g. butchers, tailors, greengrocers, newsagents etc.
Prices are often higher in these shops, as they cannot afford to buy in large quantities, and the range of goods on offer is often small. However there tends to be a friendlier atmosphere and personal service. Some small shops even deliver to the home, newsagents especially will deliver a newspaper to the door.
A supermarket must by definition have a minimum selling area of 186m2 and at least 3 check outs. They are often situated on the edge of a town by a main road or motorway and provide a large car park for customers.
They are mostly self-service and sell a range of goods including groceries, clothing, electrical goods etc, however their main selling items are food and drink.
A supermarket is organised into aisles and goods are displayed on shelves. Some supermarkets have counters where fresh produce is displayed, for example a cheese counter or meat or fish counter.
Prices are generally low and there tends to be a large variety. Tescos, Sainsburys and Asda are three of the largest supermarkets in the UK. One of the new concepts in supermarkets is the customer loyalty card and banking facilities. A customer loyalty card allows the customer to collect reward points for every pound they spend, these points can then be redeemed for money off vouchers.
A department store sells a very wide range of goods, they can be described as a collection of shops under one roof, but under the control of one firm.
They usually occupy large buildings in expensive city centre or out-of-town shopping sites. Each store is divided into a number of departments and each of these departments specialises in a particular type of product or service. For example: electrical goods, carpets, clothing, furniture etc. The proliferation of supermarkets has led to problems with distribution of goods, in the UK there are thousands of lorries on the road every day, just to deliver fresh produce to the supermarkets. The government is concerned about this and this and is looking for a sustainable distribution policy, you can read their report online.
The most famous department store in the UK is probably Harrods, in addition House of Fraser, Marks and Spencers and Debenhams are three of the largest department stores in the UK. They don't just sell goods either, all of these department stores offer customer loyalty cards, in store credit cards and finance and insurance facilities too.
Out of Town Shopping Centres
Catering purely to people with cars are the out of town shopping centres. Hated by many people and blamed for the run down state of many city centres they are still extremely popular.
A phenomenon that I am much more in favour of is the growing fair trade movement in the UK. Fair trade is all about providing fair wages and good employment opportunities to economically disadvantaged artisans and farmers worldwide. By buying direct from farmers at better prices, helping to strengthen their organisations and marketing their produce directly through their own one world shops and catalogues, the fair trade charities offered consumers the opportunity to buy products which were bought on the basis of a fair trade.
In order to co-ordinate the work of the national initiatives and run the monitoring programmes more efficiently, an umbrella body, Fairtrade Labelling Organisations (FLO) International, was set up in April 1997. One of its aims is to see the introduction of a single international Fairtrade label. The national initiatives retain responsibility for marketing and promoting Fairtrade in their respective countries.
If you want to know more visit these web sites:-
The Fair Trade Federation directly links low-income producers with consumer markets and educates consumers in the US about the importance of purchasing fairly traded products which support living wages and safe and healthy conditions for workers in the developing world.
The Fair Trade Foundation was set up in the UK by CAFOD, Christian Aid, New Consumer, Oxfam, Traidcraft and the World Development Movement.
The Fair Trade Labelling Organisation oversees the issuing of the Fairtrade label to ensure that the product conforms to Fairtrade Standards and contributes to the development of disadvantaged producers.
Traidcraft works with more than 100 producer groups in over 30 countries around the world. What unites every area of our work is our mission to fight poverty through trade.
The best way to learn is to do. You can now go shopping in England without leaving your desk. The latest craze to hit the UK is online shopping, not just for books and cds, but for the daily necessities too, food, clothing etc. Check out these interesting sites, and don't worry you don't have to buy anything.
Beanz Meanz Heinz - shop online at Heinz's grocery store. They deliver all over the world.
Marks and Spencers - no shopping trip is complete until you have visited M&S - food, fashion and home departments.
London is a long way to travel. Let me take you there to one of the most famous department stores in the world Harrods, browse around the different departments, it's the next best thing to being there.
Don't forget the kids. The biggest Toy Store in the UK is ToysRUs.