Yesterday's preliminary report from the competition commission on supermarkets has managed to leave the investigated being happiest with the outcome and those hoping for a tough verdict pretty disappointed.
Much of the liberal commentariat has been united in reaction at the commission's verdict, believing it to be a bad thing (Guardian, Independent) whilst a note of 'read the small print' is sounded by the Telegraph and FT and Robert Peston at the BBC. Richard Hyman, also in the Telegraph, points out that the supermarkets provide a service that enables other aspects of our current lifestyle. The supermarkets are generally happy (Waitrose, Asda, Morrisons and unspoken commission target Tesco), others happy as long as further action gets taken (the NFU, BRC, the British Property Federation, Spar and the Federation of Wholesale Distributors) and the small stores are plain unhappy (FSB).
Is it good news then? And is there a clear truth to be found amidst the reactions? The truth, such as it is, is that the consumers will continue to get easier access to cheap food and the commission will do its best to put a fair code of practice in place for suppliers which will, at best, maintain or slightly improve the current situation, but not so much it dents profits or revitalises the British agricultural sector. The supermarkets will continue to grow, with those chains outside the big four having the best opportunities if the 'fascia test' is adopted. Smaller independent shops will continue to dwindle in rural areas and grow in cities as the decision to shop locally or independently grows as a badge of distinction amongst ABC1s ("Our kids take organic pear cider down the park").
Is it good news? Put it this way - shares in Tesco were up following the announcement.