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Managers and staff at Tesco Express stores have been told to spend one day a year working in their local neighbourhoods after what the supermarket says is customer demand for more community-based activity from its stores.
The announcement was made on the eve of National Independents' Week, when independent stores across the country were gearing up to celebrate their close links with the communities they serve.
Introducing its Corporate Responsibility Review, Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy said: "The message from our customers is that they want to see Tesco active in their community. More than 2,500 Tesco Express convenience store managers and staff will spend a day working in their local community over the next year, getting to know the neighbourhood even better, by doing everything from running a stall at the village fete to helping clean up a local beauty spot."
He added: "I believe that business must operate in ways that nurture and sustain community activity and enterprise. Engaging with communities must be central to the way that businesses operate."
However the Review's claim that "Tesco stores have been demonstrably good for the high street and neighbourhoods" has been attacked by independent retailers.
Nigel Dowdney, who owns a store near Downham Market, Norfolk, said: "The detrimental effect that Tesco had on the town centre was apparent immediately.
"Within weeks of Tesco opening, the local Co-op closed and then a variety of food and non-food shops started to disappear, many of which had operated in the town for decades.
"I no longer believe Tesco's corporate statements and would say it's safer not to."
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Tesco managers spending one day a year working in their local community? My wife and my staff and I spend 365 days per year contributing to our local communities. This type of statement proves quite conclusively that Tesco and the Big Four have no concept at all of what is required to run a community facility, which is what a neighbourhood store is. The major corporations in food retailing obviously cannot be trusted with our fragile communities and the facilities offered within them. Should we be concerned that we are losing community facilities because of the Big Four's demand for high turnover and high profit? Of course we should!
We have customers in our shop who I knew when they were kids and now they're bringing their own children in. Kids don't try to steal or buy alcohol underage because they know I'll tell their mum. Tesco has some gall to talk about community involvement, when their Express managers will jump at the first chance to leave the community if the right promotion comes up.