Last Monday, a massive Tesco Extra opened at the end of my road. The huge store – offering over 70,000 square feet of retail space – is going to change the Spital Hill area significantly. Some say for the better, with the creation of new jobs, and some say for the worse, as they fear it will make traffic worse in the area and damage other local businesses.
I personally have mixed feelings about this behemoth of a supermarket that has opened up on my doorstep. On the one hand, it’s handy having supplies available from a supermarket that’s within walking distance. Gone are the days of driving right past my house on my way home from work, pissed off as I sailed past home, just to get to the nearest supermarket (which is also a Tesco) to buy something for tea. But on the other hand, I worry about the effect that the new supermarket is going to have on local businesses. There are a collection of grocery shops on Spital Hill and up until now, their unique selling points have been the groceries that they stock for surrounding Yemeni, Somali and Asian communities. I personally like to frequent Emin Supermarket, open 24 hours, mainly for fresh herbs (coriander, usually), tasty, fresh truckles of feta cheese, coconut milk, tinned tomatoes (three tins for £1!) and fresh olives.
According to Burngreave Messenger, some local shop owners are readily facing up to the possibility that their businesses may have to close as they cannot compete with the likes of Tesco, which can sell the same specialist products that these small shops stock but at very competitive prices because Tesco benefits from economies of scale and bulk buying.
And as you’d expect with a massive organisation like Tesco, they did their research on the local economy so when the store launched last week, it opened with a large ‘world foods’ aisle, stocking pretty much all of the specialist foods that you can find in the shops along Spital Hill.
Tesco have claimed before that, as a result of research carried out in several towns, their presence can stimulate and regenerate local communities but how can this be the case when they have launched a world foods aisle (certainly not a feature in all Tesco stores), stocking the same branded products as local shops? Plus, even if the fact that the new Tesco is the biggest in Sheffield means that new people will come to the Spital Hill area to shop, it’s highly unlikely that these people are going to leave the Tesco ‘complex’ and walk up the hill to check out the other available shops when there’s a whole aisle full of world food products at Tesco, screaming ‘BUY ME!’
Tesco will no doubt have some statement available as to how their actions are in fact helping local economy – something along the lines of “we really do want the best for everyone, honest” – but at the end of the day, they are a massive organisation that wants world domination and they don’t really give a s**t (the first time I’ve had to censor myself in my blog!) about the local economy. And I’m supporting them every time I flash my bloody Clubcard through the till
I go to major supermarkets because I can’t buy everything from the little shops near to where I live. I am determined, though, not to stop going to these shops to buy the fresh products that I always have done and will not be resorting to the world foods aisle in the new store for anything. The only thing I’m going to struggle with is the damn fresh olive stall they’ve introduced in the new Tesco. I find it really difficult to walk past the fresh olives, sundried tomatoes and anchovies without picking up a pot and digging in, feeling guilty the whole time that the fresh olives at Emin’s (no fresh anchovies or sundried tomatoes there) are sitting untouched. Damn you, Tesco!