Ethnic Chinese consumers prefer to shop at Asian grocers

When Lucia Lo does her grocery shopping, she splits her list between her local supermarket and her favourite Asian grocery store, reported the Toronto Star Feb. 17. Even though mainstream supermarkets now stock many Asian products, Lo, who is Chinese Canadian, says she can find more variety and the brands she likes in the many Asian supermarkets around the Greater Toronto Area. Recently published research by Lo, a York University professor of economic geography, shows she is not alone. Whether newly immigrated or well-established in Canada, ethnic Chinese consumers prefer to shop for food at Chinese stores, said Lo, who co-authored the study with Lu Wang of Queen’s University.  “There’s more variety. There’s maybe 10 varieties of soy sauce instead of two. The cuts of meat are different. The fish are live in tanks. The chickens come with their head intact,” she explained. The study, based on interviews with just over 300 Chinese immigrants, found their habits hadn’t changed even if they had been in Canada for 25 years. As well, the study showed convenience wasn’t a factor. Chinese immigrants in North York, which has few Chinese grocery stores, would travel longer distances to find one.

The study also found that a wave of Asian immigration in the past 15 years has transformed the local Chinese grocery business. Once the preserve of small, independent operators based in Chinatown, many in the suburbs are now small versions of mainstream Canadian supermarkets. One of the latest to enter the Toronto market, T&T Supermarkets of Richmond, BC, says its stores average 65,000 square feet, roughly the size of a No Frills stores and carry 15,000 different items, of which 70 per cent would be Asian. So, just who is shopping the Asian aisles in the mainstream Canadian supermarkets like Loblaw Companies Ltd.? “That’s an interesting question,” said Lo. “A lot of non-Chinese people like Chinese food.”

York upholds right to free speech

An opinion piece by Haroon Siddiqui in the Toronto Star Feb. 13, saying “cherished freedoms are at stake as campuses struggle to accommodate opposing viewpoints”, addresses important issues but misses the main point about the recent conflict between a small group of students and police at York, wrote Nancy White, York media relations director, in a rebuttal letter to the Star Feb. 17. The letter continued:

“The point is that many opinions are expressed at York and all groups are heard, but they need to book the space through us to do so.

“The problem with the protesters who were asked to move by police is that they had not booked suitable space (in fact they refused to do so). At the very time that they were disrupting classes in Vari Hall, a different group had booked space to hold a session on precisely the same issues. Our security and then the police, tried to persuade the demonstrators who were disrupting classes to move to a different space for well over 35 minutes.

“The rights of free speech are strongly upheld at York University. Against opposition from within and without we ensured that Daniel Pipes had the right to be heard regardless of the offence that his views gave some people. We try to administer a community where all groups and all opinions have a chance to be heard, and, had the group demonstrating on Jan. 20 cooperated with policies that have existed since 1984 and have made York the free campus that it is, there would have been no disruption, no complaints and no police. Had they stopped their protest or moved it when asked to do so by security and then by police, there would have been no violence and no charges laid by police.

“The overwhelming majority of students at York University take their studies very seriously and want to attend their lectures in peaceful circumstances. Siddiqui has missed the point that free speech and assembly holds for both students who wish to attend their classes and for demonstrators; that respecting established policies makes it possible to have free speech for all.”

Bring peer-2-peer pressure on piracy

P2P file-sharing is not going to go away. Neither is the counterfeiting and downloading of DVDs. But there are an increasing number of counter-measures to hand, reported The Globe and Mail Feb. 17. Markus Giesler, professor of marketing at York’s Schulich School of Business, recently concluded a study that provides ample evidence that prosecution is another area in need of a re-think. The ethnographic study, conducted over a five-year period, used a combination of in-depth interviews with over 300 file-sharers and observational data from several file-sharing communities, including Hotline and Kazaa. “This is the first consumer study that analyses file-sharing not just in terms of age distribution or number of users, but in terms of what it really is: a rich, multifaceted social consumption practice,” Giesler said. “Among others, our findings reveal that downloaders do not only share music and software, but also the implicit legal risk of doing so. Consumers know that the more of them there are online, the less any of them have to fear.” In social sciences, this is called the theory of collective consumer risk-taking.

Thus, the consumer risk perceived by any given individual downloader decreases with the number of consumers in the file-sharing network. “The music industry’s biggest mistake is that it is focusing on trying to tame file-sharing through legal and industrial bureaucracy,” Giesler added. “The challenge will be to bring the industry’s business model into line with what file-sharing has to offer as part of the value-added entertainment network.”

According to Giesler, in the not too distant future, the music industry is likely to find itself more concerned with “Customer Friendship Management” than Digital Rights Management. “The current belief system portrays downloaders as criminals, which ignores entire segments of consumers who pay for music,” he said. “This is clearly a waste of profit. Yet, equally, my research reveals that the industry’s attempt to turn consumers into loyal defenders of intellectual property is doomed to fail. My advice would be to send the lawyers on vacation and let the sociologists take over. P2P is very tribal and it’s about peer approval. That should mean it’s possible to turn buyers into sub-retailers.”

On air

  • Geoff Harris, director of York’s Centre for Atmospheric Chemistry, discussed how the Kyoto Accord will affect Canadians, on Barrie’s “VR Land News” Feb. 16.
  • Thabit Abdullah Sam, a history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, analyzed the mounting tension over the assassination of Lebanon’s popular former prime minister Rafik Hariri, on TVO’s “Studio 2” Feb. 16.
  • Bioethicist and former social worker Kerry Bowman, contract faculty in York’s School of Analytic Studies & Information Technology, answered questions about assisted suicide at a public forum in Toronto aired on CBC Radio’s “Sounds Like Canada” Feb. 16.