Editor’s blog: The Kwik and the slow

I feel terribly sorry for its 1,100 unfortunate store staff who had been working without pay for the last six weeks and have now lost their jobs. These are people who were being paid not much above the minimum wage in the first place and the failure of the business is not their fault but that of the management.

The grim truth is that Kwik Save was a dog of a business which makes the cheap 'n faux-chic Aldi and Lidl look like the food hall at Selfridges. Nobody wants to be poor and nobody wants really to shop in poor people's shops. We all would rather walk the aisles at Waitrose.

Kwik Save went from a 1.6% share of the national grocery basket in 2005 to 0.2% in 2006. It went through the clutches of Robert Tchenguiz – who knows a canine when he sees one – and was thought to have been losing 40 million a year. It was voted one of the UK public's least favourite brands. So, its demise was hardly surprising.

But the focus on the people at the sharp end who sit at the tills is unusual. Seeing those Kwik Save staff not being able to pay their rent or feed their kids is a timely reminder of how some among the other half live. Most of the talk at the moment in retail is about the private equity boys who are coining it in the tens of millions with their complex clever dick financial formulae and congratulating themselves on paying less tax than their cleaning ladies.

I know you can't buck the market and I know that the free flow of capital is necessary for all our benefits. But this stark illustration of the enormous and widening gulf that now exists between the haves and the have nots is more characteristic of a Third than a First World country. Sometimes what's going on out there at the moment can appear crass in its harshness and inequity. It can all whiff of a sort of decadence the like of which one saw during the last days of the Roman empire when the Barbarians were at the gate and it all ended in tears.