A Supermarket’s Impact Two Years On

Cornwall over the last two years has seen more supermarkets move in. It is not that long ago when seeing a Sainsbury’s was a rare sight in Cornwall. Now, however, they are as common as Tesco. One reason for this is a recession is a good time to expand if you have the money. Tesco did it in the last recession and got an almost got a monopoly. Now by taking a leaf out of the Tesco handbook, Sainsbury’s and Morrisions are on an expansion project

It is often said a supermarket once it gets a foothold in a town will over a period of time destroy that town. Yes, it will have an effect on that town, but it is not the supermarket that kills a town. It is the people of that town who kill it by being lured to the new and shiny supermarket. If we just resisted that lure maybe, just maybe our town centres would be in a better state.

Around two years ago Helston saw one of the new batches of Sainsbury’s get built and open. At the same time the already established Tesco got its ‘extension’. Two years later how has this huge increase in retail floor space affected on Helston and the surrounding areas?

Well, I’ve had a report carried out on the impact to Helston after two years of these supermarkets trading. I managed to convince the people from Sainsbury’s at the Wadebridge application to pay for an independent report. I think Sainsbury’s was so keen on getting planning permission they would have agreed to almost anything. I have now got this copy and it makes for some very interesting reading.

You can read that report HERE

Now conspiracy theorist could claim the report will be biased because it was paid for with supermarket money, but I am not a fully fledged member of the conspiracy club. It is though the first report that’s been carried out since a large scale supermarket development has happened. So it would only be right to give it some credibility.

The perception is a town will suffer and in this report it does show a decline in the town centre, but it is not as bad as popular myth claims it is. The area that has suffered most is in comparison goods (non food). I have felt for a long time the real impact a supermarket has on a town centre is on the non-food goods. It is one reason I have been fighting for a maximum of 20% of comparison good in any new supermarket development. This report gives weight to that theory of mine.

The report also shows that town centres have the knack of adapting to the demands and economic situations. If one type of shop closes it is replaced not by the same type. Helston has adapted in this way. Helston has some very good independent and specialist shops. Like the owner of the hardware shop has just opened a toy shop. Knowing this owner this new toy shop is no punt.

I am not saying supermarkets don’t have an impact as they do. It is just how much of an impact they have. This can be controlled by sensible conditions that restrict certain types of goods. Parking charges also have a part to play in making sure a town centre is healthy. The cost of running a shop plays a big part and there should be more help in rate relief or some other type of incentive will help greatly. These running costs can be just too high for a shop to be profitable, and therefore survive.

At the end of the day the real power is people power. If a few more of us shopped a little more in the town centre, and less in the supermarket beast this would help.

Anyway, let me know what you thought of the report.


  • Revjean

    Very interesting report and full marks for having it done! Most of us go to a supermarket as its one shop stocking everything but it's hard to beat the smaller independent shops as in Helston and Truro. It would be sad if they suffered. But as you say. It's in the hands of the shoppers!

  • Anonymous

    "but it is not the supermarket that kills a town. It is the people of that town who kill it by being lured to the new and shiny supermarket."

    Did you really honestly mean to write this rubbish. YOU allow the supermarkets to be built and then blame the residents for using them.

    Beggars belief

  • Cllr Andrew Wallis

    Planning policy allows them to be built, not me personally. If those policies were more robust, and less grey then it would be better for all.

    I also never blamed people, I just pointed out if people stopped going to a town centre then they die. It is about a balance.

  • Gill Martin

    I still believe if parking was free in Helston town centre, or at least 50p for an hour and then £1.00 all day, it would go a long way to help encourage people to shop in the town.

  • Anonymous

    I would agree about parking costs. In St Austell it is 70p for the first hour, then £2.40 for 1-2 hours, and the logic is? Most people make a quick dash into town just to do the essentials, instead of taking their time to peruse the shops. If you reversed this charging, e.g £1.20 for first hour, then 80p for each subsequent hour maybe that would be a move in the right direction. Having said that the new shopping centre is doing well,despite a massive ASDA on the edge of town.

  • Shirley Carter

    It isnt just the supermarkets taking the trade from the town but the internet.
    We buy alot on line at a fraction of the cost, times move on, nothing stays the same. I still buy alot in the town and the shops are willing to give diccounts if you ask.

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