Tesco is the biggest. Seeking to be universal it lacks individual style and suffers love/hate from its shoppers; most have no other option. Sainsbury, after a rocky period, now occupies a class niche two steps up from Tesco, offering two types of coffee filter, a more rounded policy on tuna paté, anya potatoes (uniquely in Hereford), and superior sausages. Morrisons revels in being Northern and working class, evident in certain cheaper cuts of meat. As to Asda, it wouldn't matter if it gave the stuff away VR would prefer to starve to death, burning with a gem-like flame of antipathy towards the practices of the US parent, Wal-Mart.
Which leaves Waitrose. Despite its socialistic structure (all employees are shareholders and reap handsome dividends at the year end) Waitrose is the darling of the middle-classes. Staff are bonus-civilised, the butcheries are visibly better than, say, Super-U, Intermarché or Leclerc in France, the cakes are delicately formed and imaginative, the area devoted to vegetables and fruit always seems bigger than that of its British competitors and it offers dry oloroso sherry.
Our nearest Waitrose is 25 miles away in Wales which means adding £6 of diesel to the bill. Do we care? Do we hell! We go there once a month, mid-morning when it's at its quietest, expecting to browse and make impulse purchases.
But Waitrose also has intelligent shoppers. Mid-morning last Thursday things were chaotic, the aisles choked. No browsing possible. We couldn't complain. Thursday night it snowed heavily on South Wales but one assumes the boyos and boyesses ate well in their mountain fastnesses. Not panic, just controlled urgency. I liked that, toasted them all in oloroso on snow-girt Friday night.