|A bright future for Hagley Road beckons?|
Since moving to Birmingham in May I’ve found myself strangely fascinated by the rapid development of the new Morrisons supermarket on Hagley Road, next to the Five Ways roundabout I pass everyday on my way home from work. Today, the supermarket threw open its doors to customers for the first time. Like some Z-list celebrity, I got myself along first thing this morning to witness this momentous occasion. This is my story.
Supermarkets: the endless love affair
Readers who know me will know that I’ve got something of a soft spot for supermarkets in general and Sainsbury’s in particular. I know, I know, supermarkets are perhaps the ultimate expression of late capitalism’s empty consumerism and environmental destruction in pursuit of profit.
And yes, arguably given my first career was in local government I suppose I should care more about the undue influence supermarkets with their (allegedly) vast land banks have on the Planning system and functioning competition in this country.
Luckily, however, all of these feelings of mild unease fade away as soon as I cross the threshold an am bathed in the perpetual daylight of supermarkets’ brutally efficient lighting. Then, all of a sudden my years spent as a student trolley-wally and checkout assistant at Sainsbury’s somehow collude to make me turn a blind eye to the emptiness of modern capitalism and enjoy the rush that can only come from a trip around a supermarket with a footprint of a small developing country.
Morrisons on Hagley Road: The Rose that Grew from Concrete?
Given the soft spot I carry for supermarkets, my expectations for the new Morrisons were reasonably high. I believe it was the late Tupac Shakur who described in his poetry the rose that grew from concrete.Without wishing to reach for the pseud card so early into a post, it’s only mildly hyperbolic to suggest that as I witnessed the store’s emergence over the summer and into the autumn I believed it could very well be that rose.
While it’s fair to say I am writing this post with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Birmingham, it’s worth pointing out that Morrisons doesn’t exactly have much competition in the roses stakes. Hagley Road is, after all, (in)famous as the home of Spearmint Rhino, not to mention the most randomly laid out Tesco known to man. Still, I’m told it’s important to have hope.
First Impressions of the new Store
|The hottest ticket in town: 10 minutes to go until the official opening|
After queuing patiently with around 30 or so my fellow citizens I was allowed into the store at just gone 9 o’clock. First impressions of the store were good. I’d heard Morrisons knew a thing or two about how to run a deli counter but nobody had told me their fresh fruit and veg game was this strong. Forget everything you thought you knew about refrigeration, it turns out fresh vegetables should be kept at their best with a fine mist of water vapour. I don’t know if this is an environmentally friendly method but who cares when it looks this (literally) cool?
|Greenery in the Mist|
My sense of wonderment didn’t stop at the fresh fruit and veg area. Like a Zombie in Dawn in the Dead I shuffled along to the brightly lit counters offering all manner of freshly prepared foods. By now most of us will act faux-nonchalant at the magnificent sight of a row of freshly prepared in-store pizzas but one thing you positively can’t front on is a bar serving fresh fruit salad. Sadly, I’d already breakfasted otherwise I dare say I would have been tempted to dig deep and make a real and lasting contribution to my 5-a-day target.
|Fresh fruit, fresh thinking|
Sadly, my first visit to the new Morrisons was not entirely care-free. After spending too much time in the company of designers at thinkpublic I’m sorry to say I’ve become something of a font snob. And as much as I enjoyed my Monday morning visit to Morrisions, the supermarket giant’s approach to the written word cut me deep. Upon leaving the store my eyes were burned by the sight of a ‘see you later’ sign, written in a handwritten style that wouldn’t be out of place next to Comic Sans. After reading a brilliant book on the groundbreaking work of the Sainsbury’s in-house design studio, the sight of this sign made me question the concept of progress.
|Sign of the Times: Had Morrisons not read Just My Type?|
With my curiosity over the new Morrisons now sated I am hoping I won’t ever feel the need to blog about a supermarket visit in this much depth again. Nevertheless, I hope my paean to Hagley Road’s renaissance has piqued your interest in the new Morrisons enough to make you want to pay a visit to the store. And if for any reason you can’t make it to Hagley Road, I’m sure there’ll be a supermarket near to you that’s equally deserving of your time and attention.