Save our Sheringham - Say NO to Tesco

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Shop around for diverse high streets while you still can

Any prospect of the revival of our high streets was dealt a fatal blow by last week's Competition Commission (CC) inquiry report. Yet the importance of this key policy statement was overlooked - obscured by the issue of Tesco and its dominance over other big supermarkets.
The commission's inquiry into the grocery market comes hot on the heels of the Barker review into the planning system and shortly before a new white paper on planning, due out in March. Taken together, it is clear that Barker, the CC and the white paper are all moving towards the same ends, which is the virtual end of the small independent shops that are the glue and lifeblood of our communities and the only guarantee of diversity and local identity in our villages, towns and cities. Barker has already recommended that planning rules be relaxed to enable greater competition between the big retailers in town centres. Now all the indications are that the CC will back this up, with the report stating definitively that, according to its inquiry so far, it believes larger grocery stores are an effective substitute for smaller stores.
The New Economics Foundation says it is "a triple whammy, a three-pronged, free market, ideologically driven assault on the planning system". The result is almost certain to be a white paper setting in motion legislation to cast these recommendations in stone. Part of the problem is that while the Barker review received only limited attention, the link between the CC and the nature of our high streets and communities has also been overlooked. In many quarters, the CC inquiry is also wrongly interpreted as looking to safeguard choice and competition throughout the retail sector, including small independent shops. This is far from the case, simply because the narrow remit of the inquiry means the commission is only interested in issues of competition among the main players. So while the dominance of Tesco, to the detriment of the other supermarkets, is a major concern, the future of small shops is beyond its remit. To make matters worse, because the aim of the inquiry is to increase competition among the main players, the small independents are likely to go to the wall entirely as they lose what little protection the planning system still gives them. The CC makes no bones about this, citing evidence from the Rural Shops Alliance that the "expansion of grocery superstores and the potential loss of village stores will be devastating in social terms to the communities they serve". But it goes on to indicate, that in such cases, "the evidence submitted to us bears on issues beyond competition", and that "these are not things that we have the power to investigate or resolve". Which begs the question: if it does not, who does? The aim of this inquiry and the Barker review is to increase competition and keep prices and inflation down. In the process, the enormous social and environmental costs, which impact hugely on the economy and on our quality of life, are entirely disregarded.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Tesco object to LDF small towns.

Tesco objected to Hoveton, Sheringham, Stalham and Wells being designated as small towns where development is restricted in the draft LDF. We know they want to build or enlarge stores in Sheringham and Stalham, watch out Hoveton and Wells! Lets hope the LDF carries some weight.

LDF to redefine Tesco site as residential.

The Local Development Framework(LDF) Working Party have agreed with objectors that the land currently occupied by the Fire Station, Community Centre and residential properties does NOT function as part of the Town Centre and is therefore difficult to justify being included in it. It is proposed to show the area as Residential.
Although the LDF will not come into force until 2008 it would make it easier for the council to object to any application in this area and would remove one of the key measures that Tesco have used to justify locating their store there.

Tesco struggles to win over middle England

From the Financial Times -
Tesco's much-vaunted retail skills were on display in St Albans on Thursday night. But this time it was not selling its wares - but itself. Before an invited audience in the prosperous Hertfordshire commuter town, a team from the store chain unveiled plans for a supermarket and residential development on its largest brownfield site. The supermarket, Tesco's emissaries insisted, would regenerate the city centre, provide jobs, and have no impact on traffic, since Tesco would also widen a key road bordering the site.But the group, including Eric Roberts, chairman of the civic society, was not impressed. "They smiled and were open to discussion," reported Mr Roberts. "But they don't understand; I am opposed to this plan. There simply should not be a supermarket on that site." To the chain's chagrin, his intransigence is mirrored across the country.
Singled out by the Competition Commission in a report on Tuesday for its potential over-dominance of the UK high street, it is stepping up its attempts to win hearts and minds. Groups with names like People in North Berwick Against Tesco (Pinbat), Traders Enduring Supermarkets' Continued New Openings (Tescno) in Colchester, and Tolworth Residents against Over Development (Trod) tell a story of middle England on the march. But the hundreds of banner wavers, petitioners and local paper letter-writers insist their anti-Tescoism has less to do with the company than with society. Like Wal-Mart in the US, Tesco now serves as reviled symbol for the larger trend of supermarket gigantism. Supermarkets, most groups claim, will kill local business, congest traffic on crowded streets, take over space that could better be used for housing, and damage English town life. "We have enough superstores at the moment, whether it's Tesco or Sainsbury or Asda," said Rob Hattersley, of Hereford Against Supermarkets Squash-ing Our Local Economy (Hassle). "We want Hereford to develop its individual character, not just become another clone town. There are lively markets here that could become even better."
Finding itself the target of a scattered movement against homogeneity, Tesco is emphasising its human side as part of a community outreach plan that it announced last April. "We meet local resident groups, history groups, local business groups, when we're planning a big site," said Katherine Edwards, a corporate affairs manager at Tesco. "We now have some kind of consultation process with every superstore that is under application." History suggests it may prove a wise precaution; while such groups are often composed predominantly of disgruntled shop-owners, their impact can be decisive. Last November, Tesco dropped plans for a town-centre supermarket development in Darlington after a Say No to Tesco campaign gathered more than 11,000 signatures. An Ipsos Mori poll for the council found that 77 per cent of residents opposed the plan. As well as brushing up its communication skills, Tesco is taking more concrete steps to allay concerns. It increasingly sweetens deals with local authorities by funding road im-provements around its sites. And in many of its developments it builds flats, including affordable housing. The company, however, cannot easily counter a deeper-running complaint: that supermarkets are antithetical to towns' traditional scale of business and life.
In Norwich, a petition from Residents Against Unthank Tesco (Raut), an action group, contributed to Tesco losing three successive planning applications to build on the city's Unthank Road. Chris Hull, its leader, says: "It's a street of Victorian buildings filled with traditional shops, and a Tesco is inappropriate."
Most action group leaders agree, including Mr Roberts in St Albans, who said: "I just don't believe any of their arguments that this will be good for the town."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Series of Tesco Trojan horse planning cases revealed

This report in the Guardian exposes more cases of the tactics used by Tesco to obtain planning permission.
Tesco has repeatedly used controversial Trojan horse tactics to win local planning consent without awakening potential opposition from local stores and residents. Tactics used by the supermarket group, which owns a vast property landbank - under examination by the Competition Commission - have enabled two sites in the north London boroughs of Barnet and Harrow to seek planning approvals for full retail use before the councils were aware that Tesco had an interest in either site. In both cases, the sites had previously been, at least in part, car workshops, and therefore required planning approval before a retailer could move in and start trading.
At a site in Alexandra Avenue, Rayners Lane, Harrow, the car dealership Currie Motors was granted permission to "change part of building from vehicle servicing and reparts (class B2) to ancillary retail (class A1), with new shop front and ATM". Local planning officers were not told that Currie Motors had already struck a deal to sell the site to Tesco - conditional on full retail permission being granted. Less than a year later, Tesco showed its hand and was able to secure the much more minor planning approvals necessary for the site's conversion into a Tesco Express. The Express store is opposite a parade of independent shops and less than half a mile from another Tesco store and filling station on the same road. A local store owner, who asked not to be named, said trying to compete against Tesco had been "disastrous for us; dreadful". Two Tesco stores so close to each other "should never have been allowed". Tesco said last night that Currie Motors had intended to seek retail planning permission some time before the supermarket group struck its conditional deal to buy the property. "These kind of deals are quite common in the property market," a spokesman said. Applications for Currie Motors and later for Tesco were both submitted by Tesco's property advisers Alsop Verrill. Letters and emails between Alsop Verrill and Tom Scorer, Tesco's senior property executive, draw a parallel between Tesco's Trojan horse tactics at the Harrow site and one in Finchley, Barnet. An email from Alsop Verrill refers to the need to "avoid some accusations that Tesco are trying to work the planning system". An application for retail planning permission at the Tesco-owned car showroom and workshop in Finchley was submitted in March 2005 by retailer Carpets 4 Less - again by Alsop Verrill. It said the carpet shop would attract less traffic than the previous car showroom and "will improve the amenities of residence in terms of the noise, smell and the trading hours associated with the previous use". However, the application was only approved with the qualification that the site remained a carpet retailer - and not be converted to other retail use. This threw Tesco and Alsop Verrill's plans. The supermarket has since applied directly to Barnet council for full retail permission that would allow it to install an Express store. Nevertheless, Barnet council has blocked the application and Tesco are now appealing the decision. During the planning inquiry internal documents exposing Tesco's Trojan horse tactics were unintentionally left at the planning office and have since been placed on file with the inquiry. Tesco lawyers had objected to this, but were overruled. Brian Coleman, a Barnet councillor, told the Guardian: "I am not anti-Tesco. I have supported a number of Tesco application over the years. However ... I expect a company with the size and prestige of Tesco to have some kind of business ethics. "
A Tesco spokesman said: "We are transparent in all our planning applications."!!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Brown to face planning blitz

THOUSANDS of countryside lovers are being asked to email would-be Prime Minister Gordon Brown to protest against plans for wholesale changes to the planning system which, they say, takes democracy out of the hands of local people and concentrates it in the hands of ministers and Whitehall civil servants.
The proposals, which could see the end of many local planning enquiries, has already been under attack for many months - but yesterday, a vast new alliance of protesters was created with the aim of subjecting Brown to an email blitz as he strives to take over from Tony Blair.
The coalition of organisations includes the Campaign to Protect Rural England, The Civic Trust, Friends of the Earth, The Ramblers Association, RSPB, Transport 2000, The Wildlife Trusts and the Woodland Trust. They have set up a new website at where people can register their fears on environmental and social change by emailing Chancellor Gordon Brown MP, to highlight their concerns. Brown has recently presided over the publication of two major reports - The Barker Review, and the Eddington Study on Transport - which put forward a series of planning reform proposals including changes to the way major infrastructure projects such as motorways and power plants are decided, and a presumption in favour of development. The Government has already committed to a new White Paper on planning in spring this year that will take forward the Barker Review and Eddington Study recommendations.
Key concerns include:
The reduction of public involvement in inquiries in order to speed up major projects
Increased domination of supermarkets in town centres at the expense of local shops
The reduction of people's right to have a say in planning proposals for in their area
That wildlife, habitats and green belts are under threat from development
The coalition believes that the Chancellor should instead:
Ensure major projects such as roads or nuclear power stations are decided with local input, democratic accountability, and in the framework of sustainable development;
Support local shops and town centres by retaining and strengthening the needs assessment requirement;
Ensure sustainable development principles guide development so that wildlife, habitats and greenbelt are protected, regeneration is encouraged and town centres remain vibrant;
Safeguard people's right to have a say in local plans by retaining and strengthening the issues and options discussion at the beginning of local plans, and funding greater positive participation in planning.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England's Head of Planning, Marina Pacheco, said: "The English countryside will be much more open to development if the Barker review is implemented. We must not allow economics to be the main driver of how England will develop. Environmental sustainability and quality of life should be given equal consideration."
The Civic Trust's Hannah Mummery said: "If implemented, proposals to remove the "Needs test", as part of the planning process for retail development would lead to the domination of supermarkets at the expense of local shops and could put the clock back to the days of unsustainable out-of-town developments."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Reaction to grocery market report

For more reaction and comment on the Competition Commission report visit the EDP where Janet Farrow (Sheringham Chamber of Trade) said people appreciated the need for a larger grocery store in the town, but the current plans were too big and in the wrong place and that “The current offering of shops is diverse, with nearly everything people require, plus several niche shops. With retailers having a pretty hard time of it anyway, the fear is that a large Tesco would be a double whammy for a lot of traders. You could see Sheringham change in a way that people would not like. For a lot of businesses it would not take a lot to tip the scales.”
You can also see the BBC reports where Peter Freeman, chairman of the commission and inquiry group chairman, said: "Our principal concern now is to focus on competition between retailers at the local level, where it most matters to consumers, as this is where many of the potential concerns we have would be evident." He said they now needed to see what choices shoppers had in particular areas and how competition works between retailers of different sizes. "It would be a cause for concern if supermarkets, either individually or collectively, were in a position to increase prices or lower their offer in any particular locality or region because of lack of effective competition," he added.
View the full report at the Competition Commission website.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Commission puts Tesco in the spotlight

The Guardian reports that the Competition Commission is to focus its investigation into the food retail industry on the dominant positions built up in some local areas by Tesco and other supermarket chains.
In its initial report on the £100bn a year grocery market, the commission today expressed concerns that choice in some areas is being held back by the lack of effective competition, although it said it had failed to uncover any widespread problems in the supply chain.
While stressing that the commission is not out to "punish success or individual retailers", chairman Peter Freeman said. "We are concerned with whether Tesco, or any other supermarket, can get into such a strong position, either nationally or locally, that no other retailer can compete effectively."
Sandra Bell of Friends of the Earth called on the commission to take tough action: "If supermarket growth continues unchecked we are in danger of becoming a nation of Tescos instead of a nation of shopkeepers."
Steve Davies at Numis, however, said that while the report did not appear to contain anything "earth-shattering", the commission "is clearly going to be focusing closely on Tesco and whether it has such strong positions in local markets that competition is adversely affected."
Tesco welcomed the commission's initial thoughts and said it was confident of a satisfactory outcome for the company. "I am very confident that once they look at all of the evidence they will find, as they have in previous years, that our industry is competitive and good for consumers and will remain so in the future," Chief Executive Terry Leahy said in a statement.
Mr Freeman said today the commission had decided to focus on competition between retailers at the local level because that is "where it most matters to consumers". He said: "We know about the extent of retailers' land holdings, but it's how these are used at local level, and the related effect of the planning system, that matters. It would be a cause for concern if supermarkets, either individually or collectively, were in a position to increase prices or lower their offer in any particular locality or region because of lack of effective competition."
Its initial findings confirmed that Tesco holds most land, but it pointed out that other retailers are actively increasing their holdings. Today's so-called "emerging thinking" document outlines the progress of the inquiry to date and does not detail any action that might be taken by the Competition Commission. Its findings do reveal deep concerns about how Tesco 'can get into such a strong position, either nationally, or locally, that no other retailer can compete effectively'. There will be a further round of hearings and its provisional remedies will be published in June.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Talking Tesco or Talking Nonsense?

You may have seen the earlier blog entry about the Talking Tesco site which refers to submissions to the Competition Commission. On its site it states that "Some of these specific comments are inaccurate and misleading, and we are providing a series of short notes in order to put the record straight." One of those it attempts to correct is that about Sheringham. Below is the letter I sent to Tesco after I had read their rebuttal.

I would like to respond to the notes you have published on the Talking Tesco website in response to my earlier submission to the Competition Commission.

You state that some of the comments were inaccurate and misleading. I will challenge your reply as also being inaccurate and misleading.

Firstly you state that you received 305 comment cards of which 66% were in favour, this equates to some 201 people. You also state that a NNR poll gave you an 84% backing but does not show the number of people who responded, it could have been 26. In comparison, we recently took a petition to 10 Downing Street opposing a Tesco store in Sheringham that contained 3,500 names.

You state the proposed site is within the Town Centre. Whilst technically correct according to the Local Plan, this does not mean the proposed site is within or near the Core Retail Area. In fact the site is over 400m away from it and the existing shops cannot even be seen from the proposed location. It would be possible to drive to the proposed store, shop and drive home without even being aware that there were other shops in the vicinity. This is unlikely to offer the prospect of increased trade for other local shopkeepers.

The Agreement to purchase the land was signed on 9th May 2003. You omit to mention that this was just after a local council election had taken place and before the new council had been able to meet to review the contract. Why was it so important to Tesco to get the deal signed?

You state that this Agreement was not secret and that it did not prevent the Council from selling other land for retail development. However, there was a confidentiality clause in the Agreement which prevented the contract being made public. The Council were also advised that the clause in the contract which “prevented the Council from taking any steps which might be or become detrimental to... attempts to secure planning permission” did in effect prevent them from selling land to Budgens to allow them to use the planning permission they had already received. In fact, on 11th Nov 2003 Tesco’s own solicitors warned the Council that if they did sell land to Budgens it would be a breach of the agreement. It would be useful to know if Tesco do not now plan to enforce this clause if the Council do decide to sell this land to Budgens and refuse planning permission for Tesco.

You refer to the permissions that Budgens have to build a store in Sheringham and infer that it is on the land currently used for a car park. In fact, the land is mainly railway sidings and would not reduce the amount of places in the existing car park.

You also state that the Tesco proposal is in accord with the Council’s Local Plan, the wider Development Plan and the emerging Local Development Framework. This is false in all cases. The original Local Plan from 1998 states that there is a requirement for a supermarket in Sheringham up to 1400sqm, the Tesco proposal is for a 1500sqm store. The Norfolk Development Plan states that all retail proposals over 1000sqm should be supported by an impact assessment. The Tesco application does not include one. It also ranks Sheringham as a Small Town Centre and states that the vitality and viability should be promoted by protecting them from inappropriate development. The Local Development Framework states that in Sheringham only small-scale retail developments, not exceeding 750sqm, will be acceptable to maintain its role and function as a Small Town Centre. In addition the NNDC Retail Study in 2005 showed that there would not be sufficient retail demand to support a Tesco in Sheringham alongside the other retail provision in the district and that major new floorspace capacity should be concentrated in Cromer, Fakenham and North Walsham.

Finally, you state that the Council cannot and will not fetter its role as an independent local planning authority. However, in the investigation into the Agreement made between Tesco and NNDC there are a number of examples where the Council have been restricted by clauses in the contract from following a particular course of action. This includes the letter of 11th Nov 2003 referred to earlier, but also in advice given to the Planning Committee in determining their response to the Tesco planning appeal. The report summarised that the clause “effectively stopped the Council going forward with any development which contained a supermarket on the Station Road Car Park”. Without the existence of these clauses the Tesco application would have been refused, and of course, without planning permission not even Tesco could build a store.


MPs debate 'ghost towns' bill

A bid to give councils more power to save shops and reverse the decline of "ghost towns", is being debated by MPs. Tory backbencher Nick Hurd said that over a decade towns had suffered a "remorseless decline" losing local post offices, grocers, shops and banks. His Sustainable Communities Bill aims to give them more power to reverse it and challenge government spending decision in their area. The bill would give councils the right to demand a breakdown of government spending on their services, and to go back to ministers with their own alternative allocations. It would also require ministers to give the issue of promoting "sustainable communities" more priority, and to come up with a long-term plan to do so, in co-operation with local people. Mr Hurd said the bill, which is on its Second Reading in the House of Commons, would give "real teeth" to local agreements. He told MPs many towns and villages felt "the guts of their communities have been ripped out" and not enough was being done to stop it. "In the last decade we've lost a fifth of our post office network, a quarter of our local grocery stores, a quarter of our bank branch network and over 30,000 independent community retailers."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dear Mr Norman (2)

Dear Mr Norman,

We received a copy of your e-mail which was sent to the 'Save our Sheringham" website. As the independent owners of the Budgens store we welcome any feedback from our customers and would like to address some of the points you made.

Firstly on the issue of the prices in our store - I think it's very unfair to ask any independent retailer to compare their prices to one of the biggest retailers in the world.We do monitor our prices regularly and we know that we are more expensive than the major supermarkets. The reasons for this are firstly our location and secondly not being able to compete with the buying power of the major supermarkets.We don't attempt to take on the major supermarkets on price as this is simply a battle we will not win.
What we do compete on is convenience and customer service and I think in those categories we do quite well. We always have over 300 promotions running in the store at any time which offer great value for money deals.We also offer many local products in order to support the local economy, and can respond quickly to customer requests for new products.

We agree that Sheringham needs a bigger supermarket which is why we applied for and secured planning permission for a 7,500 square foot store. The fact that some councillors subsequently signed a deal with Tesco which ruled out the possibility of this store has never been publicly or privately explained to us.
You say that in Sheringham 'no other supermarket can apply for planning permission in the town' - this is simply untrue. The deal that North Norfolk District Council signed with Tesco in 2003 only dealt with council-owned land. Any retailer is entitled to apply for planning permission on any private land in Sheringham. We have not given up and will continue to pursue the council and any other possible options.

You say we are 'profiteering on a scale which is alien to Tesco' - we wonder what you think of Tesco making over £2 billion a year in net profit. Is this not profteering on the largest scale??

You also state that Sheringham's unique appeal 'will not be affected by a new Tesco store'. We find this impossible to believe. Sheringham's unique appeal is the vibrancy of it's high street. If Tesco moved in they will take on every retailer in a price battle. Shop closures will be inevitable. You may find that some different retailers will move in but we don't think a high street with Tesco and the Carphone Warehouse will have any unique appeal for the tourists that Sheringham depends on.
But it is not only the tourists and business owners that will lose out. Residents will face traffic chaos on the edge of town as the extra traffic that Tesco plan to bring in will choke the narrow entrances to the town. They will also unfortunately lose their choice - Tesco doesn't want to trade alongside other retailers as we do but to be the only retailer in the town.

These are not unrealistic predictions as it is a story that has been borne out in hundreds of towns accross Britain.

We want to see a sustainable future for Sheringham's business owners and residents alike. Not a future which completely changes the face of Sheringham forever.

Yours etc,
Paul Burnell & Jinx Hundal
Budgens Sheringham

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Is there a limit to Tesco's horizons?

Britain's biggest retailer owns enough land for another 175 superstores, but the Competition Commission is about to step in, writes Nick Mathiason in the Observer.
With revenues of £43bn and profits of £2.5bn, Tesco has a war chest to fund land acquisitions that is the envy of the corporate world. More than anything, land is key to creating a retail giant - without stores, there is no business. So it ought not to be surprising that the country's most powerful retailer is also among Britain's most powerful real estate companies; its portfolio is conservatively valued at £14.2bn.
Tesco has 550 supermarkets and 700 smaller stores. Last year it opened another two million square feet of space, half of all new shopping in Britain, and has a landbank that could add 145 supermarkets. Tesco's control of Britain's grocery market could rise from 30.4 per cent today to 40 per cent in five years.
A former Tesco executive says the company will also have arm's length understandings with property companies to buy sites. This is significant because it is unclear if these agreements are included in the list of sites Tesco has admitted to the Competition Commission it has an interest in. The 145 potential sites could be even more.
The way Tesco plays the planning system has attracted much attention over the past 18 months. With its army of legal advisers, it can wear down cash-strapped local authorities which lack both the finance and personnel to battle against repeated appeals. On occasion, Tesco has built larger stores than councils allowed, then retrospectively applied for new permissions, and the company has faced 'conflict of interests' allegations. These involve planning consultancies, which have worked for the supermarket giant, being commissioned by councils to undertake independent retail impact assessments to determine whether Tesco stores should be built.
There are no suggestions Tesco or the consultants have done anything illegal but campaigners claim that these incidents appear to show the supermarket is 'trampling' over planning law. One of Britain's most respected property tycoons said: 'It has just pushed the boundaries as far as they can go.'
Its size also means it is a more efficient use of capital for Tesco to own strategic sites than allow rivals to compete against it

Monday, January 15, 2007

Ten reasons why we should spend locally

Why not visit this EDP campaign page and find out 10 benefits to shopping locally.
It's often said that we don't miss or appreciate things until they're gone. So how would our lives be affected if we didn't have village pubs, post offices or convenience stores? What if the disparate group of street traders who come together in our market towns every first Friday of the month to offer a wide range of produce and goods grown and made locally didn't turn up? What if that little delicatessen or bakers closed through lack of trade, or the family butchers that has been a feature of the town for generations was no longer there?
Buying locally-produced goods or spending money in local shops keeps wealth circulating in our communities, helping prosperity. Every pound spent in a market town or village shop will be spent another five times before leaving that community. Imagine how much business that is.


Is Sheringham town centre worth saving? let the BBC know

Is your High Street bleak or unique?
Is the character of your town centre being preserved or eroded?
MPs are to be lobbied this week on a new bill designed to save the local character of town centres. It would give local councils more powers to preserve neighbourhood shops Does your town centre still retain its local character? Has your High Street been ruined? Should the chain stores be forced to be more sensitive to a town's character?
Send pictures of your town centre to or text them to 07725 100 100.
All this week, BBC One's 'Breakfast' programme looks at Britain's changing town centres. Tell the BBC if your town is the perfect place to live using the link below.
Add your comment.

Many residents of Sheringham have already added their comments. Why don't you add yours or support those already made.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tesco tightens grip on grocery market

Tesco increased its share of the grocery market by 1 per cent in the past three months, while Sainsbury’s is on track to leapfrog Asda to become the UK’s second largest supermarket, according to TNS Worldpanel. Tesco increased its market share from 30.4 per cent to 31.4 per cent over the 12 weeks to December 31 year on year, based on an 8.4 per cent increase in till roll sales. Sainsbury’s share of the market jumped from 16.2 per cent to 16.4 per cent over the same period, putting it in the rear view mirror of Asda’s 16.6 per cent. Asda’s market share flatlined over the 12 weeks, although it also increased till roll sales. Waitrose also increased its market share from 3.7 per cent to 3.9 per cent, on sales up an impressive 10.6 per cent.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Supermarkets may be told to reduce land banks

Tesco has said it would be "surprised" if a competition probe into the UK's supermarkets calls for it to sell off some of the undeveloped sites it owns. The firm was responding to a Sunday Telegraph article which said the Competition Commission may call for Tesco to give up some of the plots. Tesco has the largest land development portfolio of all the supermarkets. The Competition Commission is due to publish its initial findings into the supermarket sector later this month. According to the Sunday Telegraph, at least two of the Competition Commission's six panel members looking into the supermarket sector want the main companies to give up some of the land they own for further development. They are said to consider the big "land banks" to be barriers to new players entering the marketplace. Tesco's executive director Lucy Neville-Rolfe said the company would be surprised if the Competition Commission hurt consumers by "penalising competitive success". "Tesco's land pipeline reflects our flexible and innovative approach, which goes with the grain of government policy," she said. "We build stores of different sizes, often in deprived areas and on contaminated land others won't touch and parcel together sites so we can invest in town centres, always taking risks on planning approval." Tesco is the UK's largest supermarket, with a market share of 30%.
The Competition Commission was unavailable for comment.
The Green Party's principal speaker, Derek Wall, said it was essential that the Competition Commission looked at the development land owned by the main supermarkets. "With one in eight pounds spent in UK shops contributing to Tesco's profits, it's fatuous to pretend that they'd be surprised if the Competition Commission acts to hinder their monopolies growth," he said.

Tesco struggles to “set record straight”

Tesco has been accused of launching a spin campaign in order to defend its position as a market heavyweight as the Competition Commission inquiry into the grocery sector prepares to release its initial findings. The Talking Tesco website – which was intended to “set the record straight” about its projects – has come under fire. Graham Hoenes, a resident of Gerrards Cross, a Buckinghamshire town that saw a store that Tesco was trying to build over a railway line collapse, said: “They should rename it Talking Bollocks. Instead of putting the record straight, Tesco has just twisted the truth. Their comments are absolutely wrong.” Hoenes systematically dismissed Tesco’s claims that the Gerard’s Cross store was an “edge-of-town” development, that local residents supported the move and that there was a need for the store. Mr Hoenes was also critical of the Parish Council for accepting money from Tesco to help with a range of local community initiatives. "It was considered by most [residents] to be bribery," he said. In response to Tesco's assertion that "planning permission cannot be bought [and that] they work within the grain of the planning regime," Mr Hoenes points to the £12m contribution Tesco made to the Dome project around the time of planning appeal regarding the Gerrards Cross store. "Tesco employs the best legal and planning brains possible. Councils are cash-strapped. Draw your own conclusions on Tesco's influence," he adds
Tesco has also picked apart a submission from Lady Caroline Cranbrook, a rural campaigner who believes that big supermarkets damage local economies by forcing small shops out of business, said: “It just depresses me when they deny that opening a superstore has an effect on small shops. It’s very difficult arguing with them when they argue that black is white.”
A Tesco spokesman said: “The whole point of Talking Tesco is to put the other view. We don’t expect everybody to agree with what we say. There isn’t a right or wrong on some of these issues.”
The Tesco comments about their plans for Sheringham also include a lot of misleading information. Look out for a fuller item soon.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Dear Mr Norman

A reply from the Chairperson, Sheringham Chamber of Trade.

"In reply to Mr Norman's comments I am so sorry that he feels he has moved to a rip off town and that the shopkeepers should all be put out of business, but I am sure a small piece of research before he moved here would have been beneficial.
The Tesco saga has been running for nearly 10 years and the people who have been involved know it is about a lot more than just prices. Mr Norman states that pehaps Tesco is getting too large. In 2006 they held 21.6% of the grocery market and opened 2msq ft of retail space, equivalent to half of the shopping space opened in all of Britain. Does this not prove that this company will not stop until it has everybody shopping in their stores, then perhaps would be the time to look at their pricing structures.
Yes we do need a larger shopping facility than we have at present but it has been identified to be only 750sq ft not 1500 as proposed by Tesco. He also states that the Sheringham shopkeepers are arrogant and deserve to lose their businesses, this is surely from a resident who does not know the shopkeepers well and who has not considered the far bigger picture in respect of the staff who are employed by these so called 'rip off' mechants.
This saga will continue to the bitter end and I can assure Mr Norman that the anti-supermarket lobby will not disappear but will gather momentum. We know that after the land deals were made public that many pro Tesco supporters changed their position because of the way this large company has tried to bully and minipulate its way into this town.
If Sheringham is as bad as is being made out I cannot help but ask the question as to why he chose to make this town his home?
Janet Farrow.
Chairperson Sheringham Chamber of Trade and Commerce.(Representative of 100 shopkeepers and businesses.) "

Welcome to Sheringham!

I received this letter from Mr Norman who has just moved to Sheringham, though from reading his letter I don't know why? Mr Norman seems to value having supermarkets on his doorstep above anything else, maybe he should have moved to Norwich!

" We have only recently moved to Sheringham following fifteen years in Fakenham, and are dismayed at the continuing struggle to prevent a Tesco supermarket being built in the town. You admit there is a need for a larger supermarket for Sheringham to meet the needs of the 7000 locals (how very parochial, self-centred and selfish you must be!), but you seem content with the pathetic and over-priced Budgens and the seedy, dismal Coop. Just one example of Budgens' terribly anti-social pricing policies: Pedigree Puppy Food in Budgens £3.80, Tesco £2.98. Everything in Budgens is hiked up to an astonishingly high price because it's a picturesque seaside town.
Another example of Sheringham's shopkeepers' attitude towards the people of Sheringham - Wednesday December 27th, Bertram A Watts - closed. Blyth and Wright - closed. They want our money but they want it on their terms. A bag of building sand in Blyth and Wrights costs £4.30. In Focus it's £1.35. They want our money but at their prices. The arrogance of the Sheringham shopkeepers is overwhelming - they simply don't deserve our custom.
Seen in Cromer Morrisons car park over the Christmas period - several cars saying "Save our Sheringham - say no to Tesco" - such hypocrisy! You deserve what you get, and hopefully that will be a Tesco, and very soon.
Coming from Fakenham, I refer you to the fact that since the opening of the Fakenham Tesco, no town centre stores have closed, and the Carphone Warehouse has moved in. From being a dead town on a Saturday, Fakenham is now alive as people enjoy the benefits of the new store. The same can be said of Hunstanton.
I know that Sheringham is different to Fakenham and is never ever "dead". But the existing supermarkets are bad for the town and give it a reputation it does not deserve. Budgens' prices rankle with seasonal visitors, and they are simply profiteering on a scale which is alien to Tesco. I'm not a particular advocate of Tesco, but we all now know that no other supermarket can apply for planning permission in the town, and Tesco will make a good job of their site when they come.
If you really believe that your precious town centre shops will be forced out of business, then there is only one reason for that, and that will be that they charge far too high prices for commodities that are far cheaper elsewhere, and they will therefore deserve to close. Sheringham runs the risk of being labelled a small representative of rip-off Britain.
Yes, Tesco is too big, and the risk of increasing its monopoly will increase. But they are cheap, they will bring even more people to the town - don't forget the outlying villages, and don't forget the people who need cheaper supermarket prices, those who can't afford or are unable to make the short run to the appalling, dirty-looking Cromer Morrisons.
It seems to us that the vast majority of people opposed to Tesco in Sheringham are octo- and nono-genarians who will not be affected by Tesco, and who presumably have more money than sense if they are prepared to pay Budgens' prices for their food. Sheringham does have a unique appeal, and this will not be affected by a new Tesco store. Bring it on! I hope your opposition crumbles to nothing in this very new year."

I hope to add some responses to mr Normans' shortly, but feel free to comment yourself.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Fighting the march of Tesco

The clock is ticking for Tesco to appeal a decision preventing it building a store on Unthank Road - but the battle over the site might not be over. The supermarket giant has until February 17 the make an appeal but Chris Hull, from Residents Against Unthank Road Tesco, believes that even if it does not appeal, Tesco could well put in another application. Mr Hull made the prediction while responding to new research which shows Tesco swallowed up half of Britain's new retail space last year. The supermarket giant expanded into a further two million square meters of shopping space in 2006 far outstripping all its rivals. Mr Hull said: “When we did our original research for the Unthank Tesco campaign we looked at numerous sites where Tesco express has opened and we could not find one that had not had an impact on local shops in the vicinity. Local shops form part of the community and every pound that passes through a local shop is re-circulated in the local economy about three times. Every pound to Tesco immediately goes out of the area. In America, some states decided they would have to do something about Walmart because it was creating ghost towns and if we do not do something we are going to have the same here. Planning committees should be allowed to take into consideration the sustainability of the local community when deciding on these applications.” Across Britain, about 2,500 small shops every year go to the wall as a result of competition from supermarkets. Nigel Dowdney runs the Stalham Shopper, in Stalham. He has seen at first hand the effect the opening of a new supermarket can have after Tesco opened in the village. He said: “Contrary to what Tesco say there has been a decline in footfall and it has had a totally negative impact. We have seen a number of shops close down and they are still closing down." In August last year a third application by Tesco to build an “express” store on a former petrol station site on Unthank Road was rejected. The defeat followed a long running campaign by local residents who feared for the future of the independently owned local shops in the area.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Outcry as Tesco takes half new retail space

Rivals reacted with anger after it emerged that Tesco grabbed half of Britain's new retail space last year. Research firm Verdict said Tesco opened 2m square feet of shopping space in 2006, out of a total of 4m, once closures were factored in.
Asda - number two in Britain's super-league - called the figures 'staggering.' Stephen Alambritis, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the research proved the government needs to ensure a level playing field. Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy is bracing himself for the results of the latest Competition Commission inquiry into his sector. Smaller firms are calling on the regulator to stop the country from being carpeted in identikit grocery outlets. Alambritis said Britain is losing 2,500 small shops every year, adding: 'Politicians should step in and say enough is enough.'
Jennifer England, of Asda, said local councils should have to consider the need for greater competition when deciding planning applications. 'There is a massive gulf between us and (Tesco),' she said. 'It's quite staggering. That's why this competition issue is so important.'
A Tesco spokesman said: 'The reason we've been more successful than our rivals in getting new retail space is that we are willing to be more flexible and innovative.'