When is an independent shop not an independent shop?
When it’s an independent shop partly owned by one of the biggest multinational corporations in the country, perhaps?
At least that’s the question some customers might be asking once they step into the rustic-environs of one of the ten Harris + Hoole coffee shops that have recently sprung up across the capital. With their chalkboard menus and stripped wood interior the shops resemble your average independent, artisan-style local coffee shop. But a bit of digging on the website reveals that Harris + Hoole is 49% owned by Tesco, the country’s biggest retailer with the clout to take on the likes of Starbucks and Costa.
Harris + Hoole was set up by Nick, Andrew and Laura Tolley last August and the shop’s website describes the business as ‘a family affair’, with the name originating from a London coffee shop mentioned in the diary of Samuel Pepys in 1664. And there’s not a sign of Tesco to be seen in the stores – which is precisely what seems to be enraging (some of) the customers according to recent newspaper reports . ‘It is disingenuous. It makes me upset. I feel duped,’ the news report quotes one disgruntled customer. What’s a poor misguided consumer to do? Well, perhaps the proof is in the pudding (or in this case, the coffee) – if the java tastes like it’s from a chain what’s to stop you going to your nearest truly independent caff instead? Rebecca Taylor
Does it matter if your local indie caff is really a supermarket outlet in disguise? Comment below.