A supermarket’s plan to take over a historic hardware store in Portobello has sparked anger. Here, local trader Billy Hoy and Jim Bishop of Sainsbury’s outline the two sides of the argument
By Jim Bishop
Scottish Acquisitions Manager, Sainsbury’s
Sainsbury’s started as a high street retailer in 1869. More than 60 per cent of our stores are in, or on the edge of, town centres.
Portobello is a thriving community, and Sainsbury’s is confident in the future of the high street. Designed for “top-up” shopping, our small shop will not carry the same products as the local specialist shops. The local butcher need not fear a Sainsbury’s Local, which will carry a fraction of the range a butcher has.
The Sainsbury’s shop will create more than 20 jobs and extend the shopping day, bringing new life to the high street after 5pm. Too often, high streets are closed, leaving a car trip to a supermarket as the only choice for evening and some weekend shopping.
We are going through the longest economic downturn in modern history, so it would be surprising if there were not some anxieties expressed. Similar concerns have been raised before. In Stockbridge, all kinds of predictions were made, but Stockbridge now has one of the lowest shop vacancy rates in Scotland. Similarly, in Bruntsfield, there were concerns but no adverse impact has been reported.
Our new Edinburgh stores have been a success and it is disappointing that while the fuss about a store gets plenty of press, the fact that it is welcomed by many shoppers and settles in without any negative impact never does.
High streets need to change and evolve. Longer opening hours are what the customer wants, and high streets need to respond.
High street investment is a good thing and should be welcomed. Sainsbury’s is and always has been a brand with a strong presence in, and commitment to, the high street. That will continue in Porty, throughout Edinburgh and beyond.
By Billy Hoy
Some years ago, Portobello spent about £20,000 fighting a super-
market from coming and setting up in the community.
One of the big chains wanted to open up a store at the old Scottish Gas site on King’s Road.
We went to the parliament, we went to the city council and we defeated them.
We don’t want Sainsbury’s to open up a store on Portobello High Street. Supermarkets cause trouble for local shops and eventually the smaller businesses close down.
Part of the problem is that they sell anything and everything that the smaller shops sell.
People around here feel very strongly about this, and a community meeting is to be held to discuss what to do next.
Most of the shops are against
Sainsbury’s moving here, the wine shop, the grocer’s shop, the fishmonger, and it’s because they can see what is going to happen.
And it’s not just the shops, I have had plenty of customers come in and complain about what they have heard.
It’s not as if Portobello would have been left with an empty unit – Sainsbury’s has bought a business over.
Before I came here, I worked in a butcher’s shop in Canonmills area. Then a supermarket, Willam Low, opened up and it changed the whole area.
So that’s part of the reason I am against Sainsbury’s opening up a store in Portobello, because I have already been in this situation. In fact, that’s why I’m here.
Apart from the risk to businesses, Sainsbury’s will homogenise the High Street and it will lose its appeal.
Portobello already has a Scotmid – how many of these stores does one town need?
I’d be keen to join a campaign against this – I would be at the front of the queue.