Sunday, January 25, 2009

Walk to Rivendell - Week 4 Report

Above, sky the colour of an old knife

Beside, dusting of white

on winter-blown grass

Stranded inland ocean, folded-over waves of straw in

chromic scale from grey to faded olive

to ochre and back again

Cold blasted land – desiccated air

For most of the year, Kuressaare is a town of slightly more than 14,000 souls, the capitol of the island of Saaremaa with a population of about 37,000 and falling. For some reason we have become the Cinderella for five largish food retailing companies offering uncountable culinary delights - maybe. Personally, I wonder where they expect the customers for all these shops are going to be found. So this week rather than still another rant on the awfulness of the weather, I have produced a little essay for your edification on:

The Supermarket Wars – Greed or Lousy Planning.

The first proper supermarket in Kuressaare was the Rae. It grew out of the original corner market on the main square and moved into its present location beside the library and cultural centre as part of the redevelopment of the town centre. A part of the STÜ (Saaremaa tarbijate ühistu), which operates several food markets around the island, it is the most upmarket of the lot and has far and away the best produce selection. Last summer they sold organic potatoes grown by local Saare Mahe members and have stocked local apples all through the autumn. They also sell radicchio – the only shop on the island to do so. Its enviable location and wide and varied product ranges earn it my vote for No 1.

Next on the scene was Säästu Market, which belongs to the Rimi Group. They set up their simple barracks conveniently near by a major enclave of middle-income apartment housing. The name itself means ‘economy’ in Estonian. They do a good job of meeting the needs of ordinaryfamilies with lower prices on good quality products. They selldecent vegetables loose without unnecessary packaging. Last summer, they opened a second store on the other side of town. I think they will continue to hold onto their market share.

Then came the gang from Tallinn and their SELVER. The Tallinn and Tartu Kaubamajad (Department Stores) are part of this group. It’s big; it’s posh. They have lots of stuff and is a complete madhouse on summer weekends with visitors buying supplies for their summer cottages. I try not to go in there because I always spend more than I should. Some kind of deeply buried sympathetic magic forces my hand – every time. The product range is vast and the staff are very friendly.

The newest, Rimi has the advantage of being imbedded in the new Auriga Centre, Saaremaa’s first real shopping mall. It’s partly owned by The mega Finnish retailer Kesko and partly by a Swedish company ICA. I think they should do something about staff training. When I went to take a photo, the security man, a short bloke with a round, red face and a fringe of blond hair like a halo around his head glared at me. Then he followed me around scowling to make sure I didn’t put an apple in my pocket. The management might consider that, with local customers thin on the ground in the winter, it doesn’t do to drive them away. After this nonsense, I went down the road to finish my shopping at Säästu Market.

And the newcomer into this circus will be – MAXIMA MARKET. Spawn of a Lithuanian company which claims to be the largest retailer in the Baltics. It is setting up shop just beside the original Säästu Market. I have no idea what will be the outcome but the building, still under construction looks like a large pewter bunker. When that opens – this spring I guess, six large food shops will be trying to make a living from 14,000 clients. It’s going to be fun.

Week 4 – STATS

Finished First book (of 3) of LotR’s. Am I the only person in the entire Western Hemisphere who DIDN’T know that some of the names in Harry Porter are taken from LotR?

Total for week – 13.3 miles / 4 walking days

Total walked to date – 46 miles

Location in relation to Frodo & Co.:

Camp at Woody End, a green floor in the wood, roofed by boughs of trees. To the east a steep shoulder falls, and they can overlook the river valley. The lights of the village of Woodall are seen below (ca. 11 p.m.).


spacedlaw said...

Indeed, like you I can't see all these supermarkets surviving, in particular outside the high season. I hope the old supermarket does not succumb to the newest addition. It looks like they are in for aggressive competition.

martha said...

They do , or they will try. But the original has the best location and the advantage of being a local Saaremaa company - ergo the freedom to sell locally produced products.

We'll see.