Victoria Gould: Don’t buy into big chains’ plans for retail domination

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As Sainsbury’s opens the doors on its new store in Bruntsfield, Victoria Gould calls on shoppers to end their love affair with the supermarkets and support local retailers

While there is, of course, a need and demand for large supermarkets where people can go to do their “weekly shop”, this is not the reason we are seeing such a proliferation of smaller subsidiaries of these supermarkets springing up all over our local shopping areas.

These stores, such as Sainsbury’s Local or Tesco Metro, are deliberately sited within local communities and aimed at local residents buying daily incidentals to augment their weekly shop – milk, bread, newspapers etc – as well as targeting the “lunchtime brigade”, be it schoolchildren or local office/business workers.

It is these customers that are the life blood of any small shopping area.

There seems to be no concern by the large supermarket chains of the devastating impact that their presence has, both on the life and livelihood of the many small independents that are forced to close as a direct result of them bulldozing their way into these areas and the detrimental permanent effect that their presence has on what was previously a thriving and unique shopping area.

Small independent shops rely on support and custom from their local community, your local newsagent would not survive, and often doesn’t, once these supermarkets move in.

How often do you just “pop” a paper or magazine into your shopping basket at the check-out? Or pick up some cut-price flowers from their display at the door? Do you really consider the effect it will have on your local butcher and fishmonger as you also add a piece of meat or fish to that basket?

Take a look around your local shopping area and count the number of small independent sandwich shops and bakeries that there are. The ones where you know the owners and are happy to chat whilst they make up your sandwich or package your cakes.

Quite often these are a family concern and the sole source of family income. No matter how hard they work how can they compete with the likes of Sainsbury’s, which opens seven days a week from 7am until 11pm?

Also, they don’t have the massive buying power which enables these large supermarket chains to undercut everyone in their locale. They operate a pricing structure based on location of immediate competitors.

I know that some may argue that, especially in this current economic climate, price must be the prime concern when choosing what and where to purchase. If you are a resident in one of these areas, quite often, your deciding factor when buying your property would have been based on uniqueness and charm of that particular area and may well have paid a bit more to live there than you would elsewhere.

These small local shops can never be cheaper than the large multi-chain supermarkets but they are what gives your area its charm and uniqueness.

Imagine the same street now but replace many of these small shops with boarded up shops, “To Let” signs and a profusion of charity shops. This is not only a very real possibility but has become all too often reality, for many small independent shopping areas that finds themselves forced to compete with these huge chains.

Is it not worth just that little bit extra to preserve the uniqueness, charm and individuality?

There is no shortage of supermarkets where you can do your shopping if desired. We just do not need them infiltrating every small shopping street in Britain.

We may not have the power to stop them but perhaps it is time to turn the tide a bit. We are all familiar with the old adage, “Use it or lose it”. Perhaps as far as these mighty supermarket chains are concerned we should become just as familiar with “To lose it, don’t use it.”

• Victoria Gould is the owner of Frenchy’s Beauty Boutique in Bruntsfield

Rise of the supermarket

LOVE them or hate them, supermarkets have become an unavoidable part of life and they are continuing to grow.

A 2009 study in Scotland showed that in the previous decade the number of super-markets more than doubled, while across the UK it grew by more than 300 per cent.

That rise may have been slowed by the recession, but as the opening of Sainsbury’s in Bruntsfield showed it is far from over. There are more than 20 Tesco stores in Edinburgh, and last year saw 24 new supermarkets open in the Capital at the same time as 28 other retailers closed.

Tesco sites:

Picardy Place

South Bridge

Holyrood Road

Nicolson Street

Brunswick Place

Broughton Road

Earl Grey Street

Causewayside

Fountainbridge

Duke Street

Great Junction Street

Colinton Road (x2)

Willowbrae Road

Gracemount Drive

Colinton Mains Drive

Newcraighall Road

Cramond Road South

Meadow Place Road

Cultins Road