Why does everyone seem to hate Tesco so much?
Across the country, opposition campaigns are under way against Tesco’s growth plans. This newspaper supports local traders and, therefore, by implication, opposes Tesco’s plans to expand. But, in a hard-hitting and controversial article, PAUL GEATER asks: Does Tesco deserve to be vilified?
HAS there ever been a commercial organisation in this country that has provoked quite so much hatred?
Yet despite all the negative views that come through about Tesco it remains the country’s largest retailer – and seems set to continue its expansion despite the recession.
And the fact is that, despite so many people criticising it and complaining about its power, millions of us will shop in Tesco this week, next week and into the future.
So is it really all that bad? Would one, two, or even six more Tescos kill off our town centres?
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Tesco is currently in the headlines because it is pressing ahead with its expansion plans – and everywhere it seeks to expand a campaign seems to spring up to oppose it.
Last week Ipswich council gave the green light for a new superstore at the heart of a regeneration scheme in Grafton Way.
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That approval was given in the teeth of opposition from existing retailers – through Ipswich Central – and the guardians of the town’s heritage the Ipswich Society who were particularly worried about the impact on traffic.
Tesco is also preparing to battle for a new superstore in Walton, on the edge of Felixstowe. Opposition is already mounting and has now gained the support of MEP Richard Howitt.
Proposals for a new Tesco in Hadleigh have divided the town for years and there are also campaigns against new stores opening in Manningtree and Halesworth.
But what are the objections based on? Are they objections to any new superstore – or objections to Tesco?
Objectors usually claim they are opposed to any major new retail development, claiming it will undermine existing retailers.
But would their objections be so loud if a new Waitrose, or a Sainsburys, was being proposed?
Is Tesco falling victim to the “Manchester United” syndrome – which leads campaigners to fight them simply because they are the biggest and strongest retailer in the country?
There is a national campaign with a website set up to oppose new superstores and to co-ordinate opposition.
It is called Tescopoly and has as its motto: “Every Little Hurts.” So there can be little doubt which company is firmly in its sights.
Tesco wants to build a superstore on the outskirts of Felixstowe – a move which has prompted many in the town to throw up their hands in horror and claim it will kill off the town centre.
Will it? How many people living in Felixstowe and the Trimleys actually do their major food shopping at Solar and the Tesco Metro in Hamilton Road?
If they are dedicated to town centre shopping will they really be attracted to the bright lights of a Tesco superstore at Walton?
Morrisons at Cavendish Park will take a bit of a hit – but with hundreds of new homes planned for the area there should be new customers arriving.
However the big impact will be on the thousands of people from the Felixstowe peninsula who drive up the A14 every week to Sainsbury’s at Warren Heath and Tesco at Martlesham.
Similarly a Tesco in the centre of Hadleigh is most likely to attract the shoppers from the town and surrounding villages who currently do their major shopping at Copdock Mill.
So will new Tesco stores actually cut down on shoppers’ journeys? That is quite possible.
And make no mistake, the shoppers will go to the new Tesco stores. We might grumble about them, but Tesco know how to sell goods that people want and at prices they want to pay .
It is difficult to shake off the feeling that some opposition to Tesco is based on snobbery – certainly that was the impression that was given at Sheringham in North Norfolk last week.
After a 14-year battle, a planning application for a new Tesco was turned down partly on the basis of the impact it would have on existing stores in the resort.
However an application for a Waitrose just up the road was approved.
If a Tesco was going to impact local businesses, why would a Waitrose not also affect them?
It was an argument that we have also seen in Ipswich since the Grafton Way site was approved – people have written to the newspaper and posted on our website saying: “Why could this not have been developed by Waitrose?”
The fact is that the site is owned by Tesco and not Waitrose – and planners cannot decide which store goes where, it has to be left to market forces.
It is possible to fight off Tesco – a proposal for a Tesco on the edge of Saxmundham was defeated after strong opposition from local people lead by Lady Cranbrook.
There is a Waitrose which attracts people to the town from a wide area – but does it encourage shoppers from within Saxmundham? Many still stop at superstores at Martlesham or Lowestoft on their way home from work!
What do you think? Is Paul Geater right? Or is he way off the mark? Write or e-mail your views to the editor.