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How online grocery shopping is making Britain’s urban-rural inequality worse

People in rural areas have less access to supermarkets in general. When it comes to online grocery shopping, just over 11% of those have no choice at …



Jan Kopriva/Unsplash

Before the pandemic, online grocery shopping was typically something younger and more affluent people living in cities indulged in. When COVID hit, though, the market exploded.

In the first week of the first UK lockdown, demand for Ocado home deliveries was reportedly ten times higher than it had been the week before. But when COVID restrictions were re-imposed in September 2020, the online supermarket, like its competitors, was still warning customers that slots were selling out fast. So fast, in fact, one staffer said they were going “like Glastonbury tickets.”

Households struggled to book delivery slots, as supermarkets rightly prioritised deliveries for elderly and vulnerable consumers. And retailers hustled to capitalise on this rapid growth.

In April 2020, Tesco told its customers it had hired 12,000 extra staff and 4,000 new delivery drivers. Six months in, Sainsbury’s said it was delivering 700,000 online orders per week, having effectively doubled its capacity.

A cat amid bags of shopping.
COVID lockdowns saw new demographics turn to online deliveries. Daniel Romero/Unsplash

In 2019, prior to the pandemic, my colleagues and I mapped online groceries coverage by all the major UK grocers, using the “check if we deliver to your area” tool on their websites. We found that where you live affects your choice and availability of online groceries.

People in rural areas have less access to supermarkets in general and, when it comes to online grocery shopping, just over 11% of those people have no choice at all.

Lack of choice

When households order groceries online from the major supermarkets, their orders are usually assembled in a local supermarket, what industry insiders term an “online fulfilment store”. These have dedicated staff, storage space, vehicles and drivers.

This model, however, means that online groceries are not available in all locations. Rather, they are concentrated around the network of stores that each grocer operates.

A cottage in a valley with fog overhead.
People living in rural Scotland have very few online options. Antoine Fabre/Unsplash

On each supermarket website we inputted one postcode from each of the 41,735 neighbourhoods in Great Britain – representing 25.7m households – and recorded the result. We then counted the number of retailers delivering to each neighbourhood.

We found that 98% of households in Great Britain are served by at least one of Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Asda. These three grocers offer the greatest delivery coverage, particularly in urban and suburban areas where households have a choice of grocer providing home delivery.

Other grocers have more restricted coverage. Iceland, a budget retailer with stores in urban areas, serves only 86% of households. Ocado, meanwhile, which is more upmarket and online only, delivers to only 77% of households.

Many neighbourhoods – in south-west and northern England, south and mid-Wales, and in Scotland’s borders, highlands and islands – suffer poor coverage of online groceries.

Households in many neighbourhoods in Argyll and Bute (Scotland), for example, have a single online groceries provider (Tesco). By contrast, in nearby Glasgow, most neighbourhoods have a choice of six online grocery providers.

Across Great Britain, we found that over 11% of households in the most remote rural areas have no choice of provider. They must rely on a single grocer (typically Tesco) for online groceries.

Why retailers are not expanding into rural areas

Rural areas that are underserved by supermarkets in general are precisely those that could benefit the most from better online provision. In urban contexts, the older, higher spending consumer demographic was newly converted to online grocery shopping.

In rural areas, this same demographic could therefore represent untapped demand. In other words, there is an incentive for retailers to expand there.

A row of beach huts on a beach.
Supermarket coverage across Wales is much thinner than for England. Llio Angharad/Unsplash

But that is not happening. We had rare access to data about the nationwide network of Sainsbury’s stores. Over 180 of those supermarkets are in London and south-east England, 85 of which are used as online fulfilment stores. This means the retailer is able to deliver groceries to all neighbourhoods in these regions.

In Wales, by contrast, there are only four Sainsbury’s online fulfilment stores concentrated around the major towns and cities in south Wales. We found that home delivery by Sainsbury’s was unavailable to 162,000 Welsh households (12%).

Even if all existing Sainsbury’s supermarkets in Wales were used for online deliveries, over 25% of neighbourhoods would still be more than 40km from their nearest fulfilment store. Drivers could have to travel over 100km to make their deliveries. This is prohibitively expensive and inefficient.

To expand online groceries coverage beyond the store network, retailers would need to fork out considerable sums to build more stores. Most, however, have cut back on supermarket expansion plans, focusing instead on smaller convenience stores to reflect changing shopper behaviours.

Amid changing consumer behaviours, online remains a key battleground for grocers. However, it offers lower profit margins than in-store shopping due to the higher costs of order preparation and delivery.

A cab with an ad for an online grocery company.
Will Turkish online grocer Getir expand into rural areas? Metin Ozer/Unsplash

Another solution is the partnership model between grocers and online platforms such as Uber Eats, Just Eat and Deliveroo, who collect customer orders from smaller convenience stores (such as Tesco Express).

New players like the Turkish online-only grocer Getir offer rapid delivery services using smaller, more efficient warehouses located close to the customers. However, these, too, are confined to urban areas, for now.

Not being able to choose where you shop has several adverse impacts. It can restrict competition in online groceries, which in turn can see customers faced with less choice of delivery slot or higher charges for home delivery.

And, as highlighted by the consumer choice champion Which? and the Consumer Data Research Centre, it can hamper access to affordable, healthy groceries, by limiting customers’ opportunity to shop around for the best deals and widest range.

Quite how this might change though boils down to whether the major grocers or the new innovators are able to make the investments needed to better cater to rural demand. Until then, customers in these areas will face the dual disadvantage of poor access to larger supermarkets and fewer online grocery options to improve things.

The research reported here has been undertaken by a team based at the University of Leeds, with support from the Consumer Data Research Centre, Leeds Institute for Data Analytics and Centre for Doctoral Training in Data Analytics and Society. Specific acknowledgement is given to Dr Nick Hood, School of Geography, University of Leeds for his contribution to this work.

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China Auto Sales Jump 55% Year Over Year As Price Cuts Continue To Move NEV Metal

China Auto Sales Jump 55% Year Over Year As Price Cuts Continue To Move NEV Metal

Retail sales of passenger vehicles scorched higher in May,…



China Auto Sales Jump 55% Year Over Year As Price Cuts Continue To Move NEV Metal

Retail sales of passenger vehicles scorched higher in May, with 1.76 million units sold, according to preliminary data from the China Passenger Car Association released this week. 

The sales figure represents 8% growth from the month prior. As has been the case over the last several years, new energy vehicles continue to grow disproportionately to the rest of the sector, driving sales higher.

Last month 557,000 NEVs were sold, growth of 55% year over year and 6% sequentially, according to a Bloomberg wrap up of the data. 

The sales boost comes as the country slashed prices to move metal throughout the first 5 months of the year. In late May we noted that China's auto industry association was urging automakers to "cool" the hype behind price cuts that were sweeping across the country. 

The price cuts were getting so egregious that the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers went so far as to put out a message on its official WeChat account, stating that "a price war is not a long-term solution". Instead "automakers should work harder on technology and branding," it said at the time.

Recall we wrote in May that most major automakers were slashing prices in China. The move is coming after lifting pandemic controls failed to spur significant demand in China, the Wall Street Journal reported last month. Ford and GM will be joined by BMW and Volkswagen in offering the discounts and promotions on EVs, the report says. 

At the time, Ford was offering $6,000 off its Mustang Mach-E, putting the standard version of its EV at just $31,000. In April, prior to the discounts, only 84 of the vehicles were sold, compared to 1,500 sales in December. There was some pulling forward of demand due to the phasing out of subsidies heading into the new year, and Ford had also cut prices by about 9% in December. 

A spokesperson for Ford called it a "stock clearance" at the time. 

Discounts at Volkswagen ranged from around $2,200 to $7,300 a car. Its electric ID series is seeing price cuts of almost $6,000. The company called the cuts "temporary promotions due to general reluctance among car buyers, the new emissions rule and discounts offered by competitors."

China followed suit, and thus, now we have the sales numbers to prove it...

Tyler Durden Wed, 06/07/2023 - 20:00

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World Bank: Global Economic Growth Expected To Slow To 2008 Levels

World Bank: Global Economic Growth Expected To Slow To 2008 Levels

Authored by Michael Maharrey via,

Most people in the mainstream…



World Bank: Global Economic Growth Expected To Slow To 2008 Levels

Authored by Michael Maharrey via,

Most people in the mainstream concede that the economy is heading for a recession, but the consensus seems to be that downturn will be short and shallow. Projections by the World Bank undercut that optimism.

According to the World Bank, global growth in 2023 will slow to the lowest level since the 2008 financial crisis.

In other words, the World Bank is predicting the beginning of Great Recession 2.0.

You might recall that the Great Recession was neither short nor shallow.

In fact, World Bank Group chief economist and senior vice president Indermit Gill said, “The world economy is in a precarious position.”

According to the World Bank’s new Global Economic Prospects report, global growth is projected to decelerate to 2.1% this year, falling from 3.1% in 2022. The bank forecasts a significant slowdown during the last half of this year.

That would match the global growth rate during the 2008 financial crisis.

According to the World Bank, higher interest rates, inflation, and more restrictive credit conditions will drive the economic downturn.

The report forecasts that growth in advanced economies will slow from 2.6% in 2022 to 0.7% this year and remain weak in 2024.

Emerging market economies will feel significant pain from the economic slowdown. Yahoo Finance reported, “Higher interest rates are a problem for emerging markets, which already were reeling from the overlapping shocks of the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They make it harder for those economies to service debt loans denominated in US dollars.”

The World Bank report paints a bleak picture.

The world economy remains hobbled. Besieged by high inflation, tight global financial markets, and record debt levels, many countries are simply growing poorer.”

Absent from the World Bank analysis is any mention of how more than a decade of artificially low interest rates and trillions of dollars in quantitative easing by central banks created the wave of inflation that continues to sweep the globe, along with massive levels of debt and all kinds of economic bubbles.

If you listen to the mainstream narrative, you would think inflation just came out of nowhere, and central banks are innocent victims nobly struggling to save the day by raising interest rates. Pundits fret about rising rates but never mention that rates were only so low for so long because of the actions of central banks. And they seem oblivious to the consequences of those policies.

But being oblivious doesn’t shield you from the impact of those consequences.

In reality, central banks and governments implemented policies intended to incentivize the accumulation of debt. They created trillions of dollars out of thin air and showered the world with stimulus, unleashing the inflation monster. And now they’re trying to battle the dragon they set loose by raising interest rates. This will inevitably pop the bubble they intentionally blew up. That’s why the World Bank is forecasting Great Recession-era growth. All of this was entirely predictable.

After all, artificially low interest rates are the mother’s milk of a global economy built on easy money and debt. When you take away the milk, the baby gets hungry. That’s what’s happening today. With interest rates rising, the bubbles are starting to pop.

And it’s probably going to be much worse than most people realize. There are more malinvestments, more debt, and more bubbles in the global economy today than there were in 2008. There is every reason to believe the bust will be much worse today than it was then.

In other words, you can strike “short” and “shallow” from your recession vocabulary.

Even the World Bank is hinting at this.

Tyler Durden Wed, 06/07/2023 - 15:20

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DNAmFitAge: Biological age indicator incorporating physical fitness

“We expect DNAmFitAge will be a useful biomarker for quantifying fitness benefits at an epigenetic level and can be used to evaluate exercise-based interventions.”…



“We expect DNAmFitAge will be a useful biomarker for quantifying fitness benefits at an epigenetic level and can be used to evaluate exercise-based interventions.”

Credit: 2023 McGreevy et al.

“We expect DNAmFitAge will be a useful biomarker for quantifying fitness benefits at an epigenetic level and can be used to evaluate exercise-based interventions.”

BUFFALO, NY- June 7, 2023 – A new research paper was published in Aging (listed by MEDLINE/PubMed as “Aging (Albany NY)” and “Aging-US” by Web of Science) Volume 15, Issue 10, entitled, “DNAmFitAge: biological age indicator incorporating physical fitness.”

Physical fitness is a well-known correlate of health and the aging process and DNA methylation (DNAm) data can capture aging via epigenetic clocks. However, current epigenetic clocks did not yet use measures of mobility, strength, lung, or endurance fitness in their construction. 

In this new study, researchers Kristen M. McGreevy, Zsolt Radak, Ferenc Torma, Matyas Jokai, Ake T. Lu, Daniel W. Belsky, Alexandra Binder, Riccardo E. Marioni, Luigi Ferrucci, Ewelina Pośpiech, Wojciech Branicki, Andrzej Ossowski, Aneta Sitek, Magdalena Spólnicka, Laura M. Raffield, Alex P. Reiner, Simon Cox, Michael Kobor, David L. Corcoran, and Steve Horvath from the University of California Los Angeles, University of Physical Education, Altos Labs, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, University of Hawaii, University of Edinburgh, National Institute on Aging, Jagiellonian University, Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin, University of Łódź, Central Forensic Laboratory of the Police in Warsaw, Poland, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Washington, and University of British Columbia develop blood-based DNAm biomarkers for fitness parameters including gait speed (walking speed), maximum handgrip strength, forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) which have modest correlation with fitness parameters in five large-scale validation datasets (average r between 0.16–0.48). 

“These parameters were chosen because handgrip strength and VO2max provide insight into the two main categories of fitness: strength and endurance [23], and gait speed and FEV1 provide insight into fitness-related organ function: mobility and lung function [8, 24].”

The researchers then used these DNAm fitness parameter biomarkers with DNAmGrimAge, a DNAm mortality risk estimate, to construct DNAmFitAge, a new biological age indicator that incorporates physical fitness. DNAmFitAge was associated with low-intermediate physical activity levels across validation datasets (p = 6.4E-13), and younger/fitter DNAmFitAge corresponds to stronger DNAm fitness parameters in both males and females. 

DNAmFitAge was lower (p = 0.046) and DNAmVO2max is higher (p = 0.023) in male body builders compared to controls. Physically fit people had a younger DNAmFitAge and experienced better age-related outcomes: lower mortality risk (p = 7.2E-51), coronary heart disease risk (p = 2.6E-8), and increased disease-free status (p = 1.1E-7). These new DNAm biomarkers provide researchers a new method to incorporate physical fitness into epigenetic clocks.

“Our newly constructed DNAm biomarkers and DNAmFitAge provide researchers and physicians a new method to incorporate physical fitness into epigenetic clocks and emphasizes the effect lifestyle has on the aging methylome.”

Read the full study: DOI: 

Corresponding Authors: Kristen M. McGreevy, Zsolt Radak, Steve Horvath

Corresponding Emails:,, 

Keywords: epigenetics, aging, physical fitness, biological age, DNA methylation

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About Aging-US:

Launched in 2009, Aging publishes papers of general interest and biological significance in all fields of aging research and age-related diseases, including cancer—and now, with a special focus on COVID-19 vulnerability as an age-dependent syndrome. Topics in Aging go beyond traditional gerontology, including, but not limited to, cellular and molecular biology, human age-related diseases, pathology in model organisms, signal transduction pathways (e.g., p53, sirtuins, and PI-3K/AKT/mTOR, among others), and approaches to modulating these signaling pathways.

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