The Cambridge Foodie; The New World of Retail

This month Gerla de Boer explores the new world of retail 

A real tsunami has hit the high street. Popular shops and restaurants are closing. As a result, there will be a lot of open spaces in the town centres and shopping arcades. What is going on?

One of the biggest changes over the last two decades has been shopping online. I can remember vividly when the first online food shop started in the Netherlands. It was back in the late 90s. The UK and the USA were far ahead of this. It was the start of one of the big changes in society. The other one was the increase in big superstores. A one-stop shop was becoming more and more popular. Cleverly thought through concepts where the smell of freshly baked bread would draw you to the bakery, colourful displays of fruit and vegetables convince you to stock up on products you’ve never seen before and a wide selection of convenience food to save you even more time!

The one stop shop trend was eliminating the small independent shops. Convenience was important, especially as more and more women started having their own careers. Even in cities like Rome, markets closed down as there was no time to shop here anymore. Society was changing.

 So what was really changing? Did we get more time? The harsh reality was probably not, but what did happen? It became a lonely society. On a quick non-stop shop, the cashier might exchange a few words if you are lucky. Problems with online shopping? Not a problem at all, the popup box will answer all your questions.


 The social aspect of shopping has gone. It has had an effect on a lot of things, not just the shopping experience. The quality, price, consistency and sadly on our health. We don’t tend the shop for quality anymore but on price. On the other end, the producer is forced to sell his goods for unreasonable cheap prices and this is where the problem starts. But it is changing!

More and more people are going back to the roots. They make their own bread, take on an allotment and are more critical where to shop and dine. Big stores and restaurants are under pressure to change and listen to the consumers. They realise, that in order to be successful, they have to put the customer first. One of the big hospitality chains announced a drop in turnover the other day. The reason was due to the beast from the east! As a market analyst put it correctly; “they don’t listen to the clients.” Without mentioning any names, I only can agree!

In order to make the big corporates to change, we have to change! Be more critical and shop locally. These independents have taken great care, to choose the right product, choose a sustainable source and can assist you in your choice. They even ask you how you are and will spot if something is not quite right.

Instead of glaring at the screen to place your order and wondering if you will not have 8 out of 10 replacements, pop into one of the great local shops in Cambridge. You’ll be surprised about the great offering in Cambridge from shoes to lingerie, music systems, children clothes and of course fabulous food on the market, local shops and restaurants.  

Wondering where to find them? Check out the online Independent Guide for Cambridge Independent shops or start exploring Cambridge by foot or by bike. Visit



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