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.