In a month’s time, Spital Hill will hold the opening of a new Tesco Extra store. The superstore will have a bakery, clothes outlet and more, in addition to the regular food items.
Some are content with the idea that a weekly shop can now be done closer to home. Others, like Rose Almond, who commented ‘once the new one opens there will be five Tescos within around a five-minute drive from where I live,’ feel there are enough already. So how much of an impact is the new store going to have on the local area?
Spital Hill is currently home to 6 grocery and butcher’s shops and there is worry the new supermarket will drive customers out of local stores. The owner of Sultan’s grocer’s shop, Ahmed, outlined his concerns saying
“It is going to change things a lot, I’m really worried about my business.”
Dur Dur Store’s owner said,
“We will lose some of our customers but we can’t do anything about it … It could mean the shop has to close.”
Supermarkets can sell products that these local shops offer, at very competitive prices, because they benefit from economies of scale and bulk-buying. High food prices all over the world indicate local shops won’t be able to offer much competition.
There was also concern at the prospect of Tesco selling Halal meat and specialist Asian, Arabic and Caribbean foods and spices. Many of the current shops say these are amongst their biggest sellers. There is speculation amongst some shop owners that Tesco may have agreed not to sell continental foods.
Local resident, Mohammed, felt a sense that Tesco is going to change things dramatically in Spital Hill. He says he remembers when
“years ago, the influx of continental food stores helped bring something new to the area; the low rent gave people opportunities to own businesses and improve their livelihood. Tesco looks as though it threatens the very thing that makes Spital Hill unique and this is worrying.”
Another point on many peoples’ minds is the increase in traffic. Already Spital Hill struggles during rush hours as cars, buses and people line the narrow roads to get into town. Although parking inside Tesco will be free, locals fear the movement of cars into and out of the store will cause issues. Rainbow’s End staff said they “already have trouble with unloading deliveries and the traffic would make things a lot worse”.
There is the argument that shoppers using Tesco may be attracted to look at other shops in Spital Hill, although Yvonne from Rainbow’s End pointed out that
“shoppers normally park their car, shop and then leave. Not many go for a walk around to other shops in the area.”
Yvonne advocates building a relationship with Tesco, hoping that it will be able to help boost the area.
Tesco is arguably one step ahead, with improvements in the public realm and funding a public arts scheme – they are looking for local artists to create some artwork for the store. So there will be an investment on Tesco’s part, as well as an injection of jobs in an area where unemployment is high.
The full effects won’t be known for some time after the store actually opens its doors. As S&R Raja’s owner said,
“we can’t do anything now except hope our customers are loyal”.
The Messenger surveyed Spital Hill shops back in February 2006 when proprietors were first made aware of plans for a supermarket.