East Suffolk: Tesco could have 18 stores in area

SUPERMARKET giant Tesco has been accused of an “aggressive” targeting of east Suffolk which could see 18 stores operating in the area.

The retailer currently has 12 stores of differing sizes in the east of the county, with a further six at various stages of the planning process.

Four of the hoped-for stores – at Leiston, Saxmundham, Southwold and Halesworth – come within a radius of little more than 10 miles.

Local food champions believe the expansion plans present a threat to the future of food and drink producers and High Street shops.

Lady Caroline Cranbrook, who has campaigned against the growth of major supermarkets, said the area was in danger of being “saturated” by Tesco stores.

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“What concerns me is the effect on the whole retailing sector – the corner shops and the village shops,” she said.

“These small shops are perfectly good but they have narrow margins and it doesn’t take much to push them over the edge. And they are most important because they are the seedbed for new products.”

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Lady Cranbook, who is vice-president of the Suffolk branch of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), added: “Supermarkets will say they will bring people into towns but that simply does not happen.

“It’s a chore, when you’ve got frozen food and freezing children in your car, to get to an ironmonger’s to buy a screwdriver.

“What we really don’t want to see is out-of-town stores and people from all over the district being dragged out of the High Street.”

She said she was concerned major retailers such as Tesco were only paying “lip service” to local producers and that the number of jobs created by new stores was balanced by those lost elsewhere, especially as stores are now becoming more automated.

Tony Bower, operations director at Tastes of Anglia, which supports local producers, said: “This is perceived as an affluent region and it’s being targeted as a place where people and tourists will spend money.

“I completely understand why they want to do that but they are very aggressive in the way that they do it, trying to open three, four or five stores. They are desperately searching for towns and cities to become Tesco-ville.

“It’s disappointing because we have started to get the High Street back – the butchers and and the bakers are reopening – and we want people to go to the High Street on a Saturday afternoon in Hadleigh or in Southwold.

“We are very fortunate with our independent producers and shops and the growth of multiples is a threat to their existence.”

Louise Gosling, Tesco’s corporate affairs manager for the East of England, pointed out there was a wide spread of supermarket brands in Suffolk.

“The reason we build shops is because customers tell us they want them,” she said.

“That’s why our stores are busy and popular, and you’ll see hundreds of shoppers using them every day. It would be against our interests to build stores if this wasn’t the case.”

She said Tesco had 55 local suppliers in East Anglia, providing more than 400 products. “These range from onions grown near Leiston to chocolates from Hadleigh.

“Customers tell us they want to know they’re supporting local businesses when they shop in our stores, which is why it’s important to use to build positive relationships with local suppliers.”

Ms Gosling added that Tesco employs 41,000 staff across the east, and was committed to creating more than 3,000 apprenticeship schemes for young people.

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