Wales got its first hypermarket in 1972, when Carrefour opened in Caerphilly. A report by Gaynor Thomas is both amusing and enlightening.
Carrefour Opens In Caerphilly
In 1972 saw the opening of the first hypermarket in Wales, at Caerphilly. Carrefour offered a shopping experience like no other seen in the country before, and with 960 car parking spaces too.
Across the UK many towns were still to open a moderate sized supermarket, and those that did focussed on groceries. So the idea of one building containing a very large supermarket alongside clothes, furniture, hardware, refrigerators, and TV sets, along with a snack bar and restaurants, was extraordinary.
Even the fact that this was all self-service was worthy of comment.
Not surprisingly, shoppers were drawn from far and wide, especially as Carrefour claimed their items would be cheaper to buy.
Gaynor Thomas Reports On Town Opinion
In this report, reporter Gaynor Thomas interviewed a wide range of shoppers and local shop owners.
The report starts in the Carrefour car park, before moving to the local high street.
Gaynor buys a big basket of brown paper bags full of vegetables – though hilariously we can’t see them – for the cost of 43p. “Which I reckon is pretty good” she says.
The greengrocer, whose shop has been there 35 years, doesn’t think the hypermarket will ruin their business because their florist services do wedding bouquets and funerals too. She also can’t envisage people going down to the hypermarket mid week just to pick up a cauliflower and a couple of potatoes either, showing that daily grocery shopping was still very much part of normal activity then.
One lady thought people coming from other towns would go to places such as Woolworths and the market first before going down to the hypermarket, so thought everyone would co-exist.
Next we’re shown a basket of goods that are apparently usual for a weekly shop. Included are washing up flakes and lard.
The managers of the largest grocery shop in Caerphilly believed the hypermarket wouldn’t dent business long term, because a larger store couldn’t offer the personal service of the high street stores.
Gaynor then holds a big box full of the weekly shop items, and tells us it came to exactly £5.
Gaynor Shops At Carrefour
The next day Gaynor Thomas goes into Carrefour to see if she can buy exactly the same goods and get any change from £5.
You have never seen anyone look so happy to be shopping – though it quickly turns to a big sigh.
One customer tells Gaynor she came with friends but hasn’t seen them since walking through the doors, because the place is so big, and now she’s got to try and find them.
A very well spoken woman says she has been to France so is familiar with the set up, reminding us that Britain was slow in adopting this style of shopping. However, she’s frustrated that everyone insists on taking their trolleys to the counter, instead of leaving them parked nearby for a couple of minutes.
A man is buying something for his daughter’s transistor set. Elsewhere it costs 14p, but the price at Carrefour is 11p. “Well, that’s a 3 pence save isn’t it?” says the happy bargain hunter.
Getting To The Checkout
Gaynor has to literally crash an abandoned shopping trolley out of her way to get to the checkout. The TV cameras were in the building and no one thought to clear empty trolleys away from the till aisle.
By this time, she’s shopping with gritted teeth.
The final price at the till for a week’s shopping? £4.64 and a half pence.
But she’s so fed up with walking a long distance, it doesn’t sound like she’ll be coming back for more bargains anytime soon. And it’s worth noting that the shopping trolleys seen in the background are almost empty compared to what people buy in their local supermarket today.