part-time musings

Tag: Sainsbury’s

Why Westgate?

This is the Westgate Shopping Centre in Oxford. Not the most glamorous of additions to Oxford’s architectural fabric, is it? I was thinking about this shopping centre the other day because I was wondering if the change machine they have outside the Sainsbury’s is still there. The change machine is the only reason I go to the centre which makes me what retail analysts might classify as an ‘outlier’.  This is because I’m in no way tempted by the typical manifestations of modern-day consumerism such Primark, Thorntons, and the sad smorgasbord of mobile phone and sportswear shops that line the route to the change machine.

For some reason this segued into me wondering about the name Westgate. My geography of Oxford is a bit sketchy, but it occurs to me that it’s possible the shopping centre lies in the western part of the city where once there was an actual Western Gate to keep out marauding peasants from the nearby swamps. It’s possible, yes, this deeply-held  commitment to Oxford’s historical past on the part of the shopping centre developers? But then what Dear Readers, explains the wild proliferation of Westgate Centres elsewhere in the world?

There’s one in Ottawa, one in Johannesburg, one in Auckland, New Zealand, one in San Jose, California, in Stevenage, in Toledo, in Zagreb, in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in Ashville, North Carolina, in Nairobi, in Shanghai… (I’m not making this up. I checked all this you know)…  in Cleveland, Ohio, in Harare, in Macon, Georgia, in Merced, California, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in Winona, Minnesota, in Little Rock, Arkansas, in Durham, North Carolina, in Amarillo, Texas, and in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Yes Dear Readers, there are a LOT of Westgate Shopping Centres out there. And because I’m such a thorough researcher and generally over-caffeinated, I of course couldn’t stop there. Next I had to investigate the relative popularity of the name EASTGATE Shopping Centre.  And my painstaking research reveals that in a googlefight, Westgate beat Eastgate by almost 2 to 1.

Oh and if anyone knows if the change machine outside Sainsbury’s is still there, please tell me.

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PROFITING FROM MAIZE IN THE UK

In my posting ‘Milking It’ on 12 September 07, I noted how some farmers prefer to sell their produce to supermarkets because of the benefits they derive from relatively consistent demand. Timeout Magazine recently featured a story about David Wilfred Mwanaka , a Zimbabwean-born farmer who grows white maize in the UK, and whose experience seemed to me to be a clear example of how farmers can profit from a good relationship with supermarkets.

A few years ago, David Mwanaka started farming white maize on 20 acres of farmland just outside London. He spent six years experimenting with white maize production under UK conditions, an environment not naturally-suited to this temperamental southern African staple. But having successfully reared his first crop of white maize a few years ago, David then struggled to find people to buy it. Timeout reports that he literally drove around London with his car loaded with maize trying to find a suitable outlet. David advertised in community newspapers and sold his maize to restaurants and to southern Africans living in the UK. In 2007, however, Sainsbury’s agreed to sell his white maize in their stores around London.

It looks like a win-win situation: On the one hand, Sainsbury’s get to sell an interesting and unusual product to consumers who are increasingly prepared to pay a premium for locally-produced food, while on the other, David Mwanaka is able to reach thousands of new customers. There’s a Yoruba proverb that reminds us that when a farmer is tying up maize, he is tying up bundles of money. It is also a reminder that we shouldn’t neglect the extent to which a farm’s viability is ultimately contingent on finding a market.