It’s been a few months now since Aber’s semi-socialist revolution came to an end and the epitome of big business opened its doors in the former site of the Dolphin chip shop. It wasn’t quite the miners’ strike but the anger that consumed so many in the town when Starbucks announced its intention to move in was quite remarkable. What causes Aber to be so reluctant to welcome big chains and what effect has the protest had on the success of Starbucks so far?
Politically speaking, Aberystwyth is hardly the bedrock of Welsh socialism. The Labour party is nowhere to be found and never has been and though Plaid Cymru is quite a left wing party there is still a Lib Dem MP in the area so why then are people so anti big business?
Unlike most towns in Wales Aberystwyth has maintained an element of uniqueness, that’s part of the reason we all love it so much. The words “clone town” have become such triggers for anger in Aber that it is no surprise really that people are scared of seeing an internationally recognizable brand moving in. Aber does also pride itself on the incredible number of local coffee shops that it supports, we do practically have one per street, possibly more. To be completely honest it goes without saying that Aber didn’t need a Starbucks. When you’re in town you never have to walk more than 100 yards for a coffee.
But did Starbucks need Aber? Rarely have I walked up main street towards the castle and seen the place looking busy. In fact more often than not it looks quite dead. I’m glad in a way because it does give a sense of integrity to the protests, not that I was personally a part of the protests at the time. People build relationships with their local cafes and it’s hard for a chain to just move in and break people away from their usual caff. The fact that Starbucks are now trying again to paint a massive sign on their wall which will dominate all of main street just goes to show that they must be disappointed with the start they’ve made. Oh well…
When Costa came a few years ago there were some complaints also, but not to the same degree and as we can see today Costa have made a real success of their arrival and will probably be here for years to come, Starbucks however may not be so lucky. Their tax avoiding ways do make me a tad unsympathetic but at the same time surely it’s better to have them there than just another empty shop at the top of town? It’s a bit of a moral dilemma…
A couple of months on it seems that the flames of rebellion have been contained and the might of the corporation has prevailed but to no great purpose as surely the profit levels from a near empty coffee shop in a prime town centre location can’t be great. Time will tell if Starbucks will stick it out or bugger off.
The hilarious thing about this whole affair (and the most Aber thing about it) is while everyone was getting all bent out of shape about Starbucks turning up, Coffee #1 managed to sneak in to Salt under the radar. Did anybody know it was coming until the signs went up? Where were the protests then? Does Aber need a Coffee #1? Who knows? We do as a town have the best of intentions but we do suffer from a bit of a one track mind when we get together to campaign on the town’s behalf.