The New Yorker has a piece entitled "A Community of Desires: The Seduction of the Big-Box Superstore," in which writer Annie Ernaux assesses the unique role of the superstore in French culture.
"We choose our objects and our places of memory, or, rather, the spirit of the times decides what is worth remembering. Writers, artists, filmmakers play a role in the elaboration of this memory. Superstores, which the majority of people in France have visited roughly fifty times a year in the past forty years, are just beginning to be considered places worthy of representation. Yet I realize, looking back in time, that from every period of my life I have retained images of big-box superstores, with scenes, meetings, and people.
"The superstore and the supercenter cannot be reduced to their function in terms of home economics, to the 'chore' of grocery shopping. They provoke thought, anchor sensation and emotion in memory. We could definitely write life narratives from the perspective of superstores that are visited on a regular basis. They are part of the landscape of childhood for everyone under fifty. For all but a limited segment of the French population—those who live in the center of Paris and other old historical cities—the superstore is a familiar space, whose regular use is part of daily life but whose impact on our communities and our way of 'building society' with our contemporaries in the twenty-first century we do not fully grasp. When you think of it, there is no other space, public or private, where so many individuals so different in age, income, education, geographic and ethnic background, and personal style circulate and rub shoulders with one another. No enclosed space where people are brought into greater contact with their fellow-humans, dozens of times a year, and where each has a chance to catch a glimpse of others’ ways of living and being. Politicians, journalists, 'experts,' those who have never set foot in a superstore, do not know the social reality of France today."
Really interesting piece that, in the style of The New Yorker, is given room to breathe and ruminate. And you can read it here.