WHAT, I wonder do our supermarket shopping habits reveal about us as a society?

I ask this question after reading about an argument that has taken place between the residents of Sandbanks, in Dorset, and the local planning authority who were considering giving permission for a Tesco to be built in the area.

The good people of Sandbanks did not want the Tesco to go ahead, under any circumstances. But then again, you have to take into consideration the special nature of Sandbanks and the people who live there.

If you’re not familiar with Sandbanks, it is a spit of land near Poole harbour and has been dubbed ‘Millionaires Row’. It boasts some of the most expensive property prices in the world and is home to a number of high-profile former football players and managers.

So outraged were the people of Sandbanks at the prospect of the former Sandacres pub becoming a Tesco Express, they mounted a vigorous campaign to stop the plans going ahead, including a Facebook campaign and vowing to boycott the shop should it be built.

According to the Bournemouth Echo: “Opponents argued it was inappropriate alongside the exclusive properties of the area.”

It went on to add: “Around 425 people signed the petition against the shop, which states that residents are ‘far from happy to be next to and/or looking out onto a Tesco Express’.”

In the end, they lost the battle and the store went ahead. I will leave it up to you to decide if the shop is the eyesore the protesters claimed it to be. But one wonders would they have been quite so opposed if the plan had been to build a Waitrose there instead.

In this respect, at least, Northwich has got one over on Sandbanks.

This set me thinking. Is there an unofficial class hierarchy about where people do their weekly shopping or is it just linked to perceived cost? Or do people just shop at the nearest supermarket to them? What makes people choose one supermarket over another. Do you drive past Asda to get to Aldi or conversely drive past Sainsbury’s to get to Marks and Spencer?

And have people’s shopping habits changed in the wake of the banking crisis, the credit crunch and the rise in the cost of living?

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph last year, austerity has hit the affluent, as a third of high earners have admitted to switching to a cheaper supermarket to do their weekly shop to make ends meet.

The report went on to say: “Consumers appear to be flocking to cheap supermarkets to reduce the cost of their weekly shop as inflation continues to rise.

“Recent figures from the supermarket industry show that so-called ‘deep discount’ retailers Aldi and Lidl – which sell cheap food in no-frills shops – saw their share of the grocery market grow by 26 per cent and 12 per cent respectively over the three months to August.”

This growth far outstripped that of its rivals Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. When it comes to my personal weekly store cupboard stock- up, I am something of creature of habit and use the same supermarket every week.

I have what I consider to be good reasons. Starting from the basic premise that I hate shopping, I want to make the process as painless as possible, and as cost effective. I know where everything is on the shelves of the supermarket I choose to use and therefore don’t have to spend time hunting things down. As a result, I can do my shopping quickly and efficiently – and relatively cheaply.

It’s not a voyage of discovery for me so I’m not tempted by those new and unusual brands you inevitably come across if you stray into a different supermarket for any reason.

But according to some of my colleagues, I am still missing a trick and should at least give the Lidls and Aldis of this world a chance. They swear by them, vouching for their range and quality. To be honest, I’m still not tempted but perhaps that says more about me than them.

One final thought. I did visit my local Sainsbury’s recently. It’s not a shop I use very often but I was tempted by one of its special offers.

Walking past the cheese section, my eye was drawn to a very neatly presented ‘Basics’ range cheese – Brie.

In what world or in what lifetime in a northern industrial town has Brie become a ‘basic’ for goodness sake?

Perhaps there is a class hierarchy to supermarkets after all.