There is no doubt that the supermarket giant's store development has been relentless, excessive even, in recent years. And it shows no sign of slowing, whether it be in the form of new-build supermarkets, Express stores, or 'hermit crab' developments of property vacated by other large retailers. In our recent survey (my thanks to all who filled in the questionnaire), competition with supermarket chains was highlighted as the number one issue for readers.
Our feature on Andover (see p20-23) shows that independents in one of the UK's most excessive Tesco towns have adopted strategies to keep their business going, and are still around to tell the tale. There is an important lesson here, namely that the opening of one Tesco is survivable by concentrating on customer service, points of difference and adjusting your range and pricing strategy to capture the attention of local shoppers.
That's the good news. The bad news is that the multiple giant's store opening programme is continuing apace even in a town like Andover, where there are already five Tesco fascias in a town of 40,000 people and rumours of another one on the way. This is excessive, unnecessary, and pressure needs to be exerted on local councils to prevent this from being repeated elsewhere.
Surviving one Tesco is possible, surviving six is probably not. We need to keep playing to our strengths, but we also need to keep protesting about this hostile takeover attempt of the local shopping market.
While you are in the mood to protest, I urge you to sign our e-petition about protecting local retailers. It's calling for the penalties for those who attack retailers and staff to be in line with those attacking other community servants such as nurses or police, and it's available to sign at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/12401.
We set up the e-petition in the wake of the riots, where hundreds of local stores were attacked. We believe it is an issue that extends far beyond the week of collective madness we saw in cities across England, but with those events fresh in the mind of the public and politicians, now is the time to get a campaign rolling that will hopefully end in change for the better. If each of you can add five signatures to the petition, whether it be from friends, family, staff, customers or suppliers, we will easily reach the 100,000 needed to trigger a much-needed debate in parliament about retailers' safety.