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The People's Supermarket

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The big supermarkets throw away tons of food every day, are monopolising our high streets, squeezing the profit out of producers... and making huge profits.

Arthur Potts Dawson wants to reclaim a London high street by starting a radically different supermarket which is owned by its customers. To keep prices low he wants them to work in it for free and decide what's on the shelves.

The problem is his only experience is running a no-waste restaurant. Armed with infinite enthusiasm and an unshakeable conviction, he is determined to succeed. But will he ever persuade busy Londoners to take a shift stacking shelves?

Can he source food as cheap as the supermarkets whilst still giving the farmers a fair price for their produce? And will enough local people buy into his fancy organic ideas?

Episode 1

Can Arthur's People's Supermarket start a high street revolution which could breathe life back into the high street and change how Britain shops for food?

The first of this four part series sees Arthur try to get his big idea started. His fear is that one of the big name supermarkets will also try to secure the lease of the central London premises he's identified as the ideal location for the supermarket. Will the landlord take a punt on Arthur and his dream?

Desperate for cash to stock the shelves he holds a fundraising dinner with the food - and wine - sourced the night before from the tons of perfectly good food the big supermarkets have thrown away. With turnips, Swiss roll and some goat's cheese on the menu Arthur's skills as a chef are put to the test.

Arthur is desperate to find out how to give his customers cheap food. But when he meets a dairy farmer who is forced to sell his entire herd as he can no longer survive on the money the big supermarkets pay for his milk Arthur has to rethink. He wants to be fair to the farmers but with his customers from the local housing estate demanding cheap food Arthur is caught in the middle.

As the supermarket opens its doors for the first time Arthur finds out whether his dream to change how we shop is ever going to take off.

Filmed over two years - from the inception of the idea and during the turbulent months following its opening - The People's Supermarket is a no holds barred look at what it takes to pull off something really different.

Episode 2

It's been six weeks since The People's Supermarket was conceived, and now open, Arthur and the other members have their work cut out if they want to make this independent business succeed.

So far the members are mostly middle-class but Arthur's dream is to serve the entire community... plus he needs more members. Arthur attempts to get the residents of one of Camden's biggest council estates to sign up too. But how can he persuade them to part with a £25 membership fee and work in the shop for nothing? Meanwhile the existing members are at loggerheads. With one group worrying about organic and food air-miles, those on a tighter budgets want frozen chips and cheap brands. As a class war of sorts breaks out and shouting matches erupt on the shop floor, angry members are starting to avoid the shop altogether.

He's nowhere near the 500 members he needs to make the shop profitable. So Arthur comes up with a guerrilla-style marketing campaign to persuade shoppers from nearby Sainsbury's to try out The People's Supermarket. But the campaign doesn't quite go to plan and he faces thousands of pounds of fines from the council. With finances stretched to breaking point Arthur is forced to seek financial backing from an outside investor.

It's a race against time for Arthur to keep all the members on board and keep The People's Supermarket dream alive.

Episode 3

Three months after opening Britain's most innovative supermarket, chef Arthur Potts Dawson is struggling to keep The People's Supermarket open. It's hardly proving to be the utopian dream he hoped, he's only managed to recruit half the members he needs to staff the shop and they're hardly the loyal customers The People's Supermarket needs if it's going to survive. It seems they're seduced by the endless choice on offer at rival supermarkets just a few minutes walk away.

It's having a massive impact on the viability of the shop, as Arthur says: "I opened a supermarket, and the members are treating it as a convenience store - if they go on doing that, we'll go bust.

But to get them to do their whole weekly shop at The People's Supermarket, Arthur has the hard task of convincing members and shoppers that they can cook entire meals from the limited range on the shelves - but he also needs to cut costs and make more money

So can Arthur turn personal shopper to show members and die-hard Sainsbury's families that his style of shopping and cooking is a better option?

Arthur also needs to cut costs - he's worried about the food waste he's creating because what he's throwing out is costing him money. But he's certainly not alone in putting food into the bin and when he goes to see what a heap of food waste looks like at a food recycling centre, he's staggered to find out how much unopened supermarket food there is. And it's not just food from households, a staggering 350,000 tonnes of food waste is generated by supermarkets and food shops.

Arthur's determined to challenge the conventional model where overstocked shelves can lead to waste so he goes back to his roots as a chef and opens The People's Kitchen in the supermarket. This allows him to use food waste and turn it into a range of ready meals. But will people be happy to eat food that was destined for the bin?

Episode 4

In the last programme of the series, The People's Supermarket faces its most serious problem. Arthur's recruited just over three hundred and fifty members, but they're not coming into the shop - either to shop or to work their shifts. "Where are the members?" asks Arthur, "I wanted to open a People's Supermarket, and all I've done is to open a supermarket, and I never wanted that - this has to be about members." It seems that the honeymoon period is well and truly over, and members are disillusioned with their shop, monthly meetings where members used to have high-minded discussions about air-freighted and organic food, now end in acrimony and argument.

Arthur has to remotivate the members - but it's not his only problem: takings at the till are stubbornly low and the supermarket's financial situation is dire. Now it looks as if he hasn't got enough money to cover the rent -and if he can't, then The People's Supermarket will have to close and Arthur's dream of a not-for-profit shop that's run for and by the people will be over.

Arthur decides to take the biggest risk so far - he calls the members to a meeting and tells them: Use the shop or Lose it. From now on, the future of the shop is their hands - they have to come in to run their shop, and they have to use it to do their shopping. If they don't, the shop will close. But will they rise to the challenge, or will Arthur have to accept that his dream of getting a community together has failed? At the end of the week, Arthur will hold a party at the shop in a final attempt to recruit the remaining members he needs to staff the shop full time.

Will the members respond to Arthur's call to action and come back to their shop? And can he get the 500 members he needs to run the supermarket?

Past TX Information

THE PEOPLE'S SUPERMARKET 4/4
25 Mar 2011, 01:45
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