Once upon a time I worked at a mom-and-pop grocery (although in truth, this was just a mom operation, pop was long gone). This was back in the dark ages, when chain grocery stores did not have delis and they pre-packaged all the fresh produce so you could not pick your own from their displays. Eventually, the chains caught on and opened delis and stopped shrink wrapping the produce. Then along came Walmart, where not only could you shop for groceries, but just about anything else you might want, a modern day general store. Even Target now sells food.
As a working mother, even though I might have wanted to support the mom-and-pop operations, the convenience of one-stop shopping won me over. And it didn't really matter which store I one-stop shopped at, as they all offered the same products.
And then things changed.
First came the option of buying organic and "health" foods. While many of the chains now also offer what could previously be purchased only at food co-ops and health food stores, their selection is not as complete, nor do they vet what they offer. So now I became a two-stop shopper.
Then came the exhortation to buy local. The food co-op I frequent offers some items from local producers, but not always. So now I buy some food direct from local farmers and also frequent farmers markets. We have one FM that is open year round, so in winter you can still purchase local lettuce, potatoes, squash, plus locally roasted coffee (but is it fair trade?!?), locally baked baked goods, etc.
Then some smaller chains started moving into the area. One is Earth Fare. Their offerings are more varied than the food co-op, plus there is fresh meat. I can walk to it, reducing my carbon footprint while getting in some steps. And I like their bread. Another new store is Just in Thyme, which has not yet opened but is supposed to be modeled like a farmers market.
And then to make things even more complicated, the chains are either shifting, even limiting, many of their offerings to their store brands (Kroger, I'm talking about you) and/or not carrying the particular items I purchase at all.
This phenomenon is not limited to food. A walk through the mall reveals that many of the stores offer the same clothing styles, sometimes even the same clothing lines. In department stores, the selection of towels and linens is severely limited in styles and colors. There are common items I have purchased before that NO ONE carries today. The most recent example is sheers in lengths less than 84". Several years ago I was able to buy these at Target, but no more. Nor at the other stores I visited. An online search indicates that I can no longer purchase them anywhere. It looks like I will have to actually make them myself.
Maybe if I lived in a large metropolitan area, I would not see my shopping options contract even as the stores themselves expand. Here in the midlands, though, everything looks alike, everyone dresses alike, everyone does the same thing. I guess that makes me the weirdo.