Supermarkets "Choke Life" Out Of Small Shops

Stark warnings as new Tesco arrives in Uxbridge Road

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The All Parliamentary Small Shops Group says competition from supermarkets may lead to the complete disappearance of independent retailers by 2015.

The stark warning comes as a new Tesco Express prepares to open in Uxbridge Road in December and a Sainsbury's looks set to open in Askew Road next summer.

At a recent London Assembly meeting, representatives from a variety of businesses discussed the issues facing retailers on local high streets in the capital, with Conservative LA member Andrew Boff condemning the spread of supermarkets and shopping malls.

"Supermarkets choke the life out small shops and local high streets,” he said. "The Mayor and local councils must check growing dominance of supermarkets and support small local retailers before we end up with 'clone town Britain' where every high street is completely devoid of local character."

A report compiled by the accountancy firm, BDO Stoy Hayward, warns that retailers can expect the worst of the recession to hit in 2010 with over 5,000 retailers in the UK predicted to go out of business.

At the LA meeting, Nick Winch of the Federation of Small Businesses said where people chose to shop had a direct impact on the local economy: “If you go in and spend £10 in your local Tesco, roughly 50p of that remains within the local community. If you go into your local independent retailer and you spend £10, very nearly five quid of that stays within the local community.”

However, he said there were other factors that put small shops at risk: “The issue of parking is absolutely crucial. The parking regime in a borough is vitally important in determining whether a business is viable or not and you do have cases where you have rows of shops where it's just impossible to park outside them. That's the kind of issue where you have to have some kind of positive intervention.”

Emma Reynolds, Government Affairs Manager at Tesco, said that to suggest the independents were going to disappear by 2015 was “dramatic”: “There's evidence where we have opened in an area, surrounding stores have actually increased their customers because people have been brought into the area,” she said. Supermarkets also argue that as well as an increased footfall, they bring jobs and new investment.

The new Sainsbury's in Askew Road will be on the site of a former petrol station and hand car wash business, while the Uxbridge Road Tesco is where the old Blockbusters video store used to be. “This store is a Tesco Express store which is our convenience store format. It is planned to open on 9 December and will create around 20-25 jobs for local people,” said a Tesco spokesperson.

“Because of the convenience factor, our Express stores are designed to serve the
immediate neighbourhood and are intended for use by local people travelling on foot,” the spokesperson said.

According to the Office of National Statistics, there were 34,708 small retailers employing 102,905 people in London in 2007. Small retailers account for 87 percent of all retailers in the capital.

November 21, 2009