Retailers have expressed outrage over former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy’s comments on the high street.

Speaking on Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 at the weekend, Leahy said that shops closing was “part of progress” and that “people are not made to shop in supermarkets, they choose to shop there”.

He also labelled high streets as “medieval”. “High streets - some of them are medieval and the way that we live our lives now is very different, so what you have to do is make sure the benefits do outweigh the costs, and I think that they do,” he said.

His comments attracted ire from the independent retail industry. David Heritage of Barns Green Village Stores in Horsham, West Sussex, said: “How dare he say that by forcing hundreds of small businesses to close is progress. Just goes to show the mentality of Tesco and how they will stop at nothing. He’s like a Bond villain wanting world domination.”

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman also took Leahy to task on his attitude. “The tone of Sir Terry’s comments was too brutal and Darwinistic,” he said. “Our members are entrepreneurs; they understand competition, risk and the tooth and claw battle for consumer spend and they don’t need someone who has made his fortune managing other people’s investment in a plc rather than risking his own capital to teach them market economics.”

He also criticised Leahy for his comments on consumer shopping habits. “Sir Terry stating - as fact - that consumers are favouring large stores when in fact they are not is more significant than just tough talk and posturing. It’s fundamentally misleading and potentially damaging for small stores and high streets,” he said.