Friday, 16 December 2011

Tesco Express Dinas Powys: Day 1

The Tesco Express on The Parade, Castle Drive, Dinas Powys opened for business at 8am this morning, when it was full of school kids and men in suits (Tesco employees). The shop is well-stocked. The focus is on sandwich deals, ready meals and convenience foods; although there is a wide range of items on the shelves.

Tesco took over a former pub, which could have remained derelict, and have improved the surrounding environment by paving the car park at the back and putting up extra lighting. They have created around 25 jobs. Although they are not selling anything (I could see) that is not already available elsewhere in the village, the shopping choice in the village has increased and the profile of Dinas Powys enhanced as a shopping destination. The main concern with Tesco Express, which is one of the fastest expanding chains in the UK, is that is that it will lead to the closure of locally-owned shops, thereby reducing shopping options in the long-term while taking retail profits out of the community.

The other shops along The Parade are Martins’ newsagent, Hung House Chinese and Thai Takeaway, Paul’s Chippy, Valley View Fruit Stores (run by Jan and Tony Mapstone for 14 years), A Class Apart (children’s school uniforms) and Spar. The nearby shops at Camms Corner include Murch Pharmacy (run by Linda Jones for over 20 years), Murch Post Office, TC Ellis Guitars Ltd (Tim makes guitars for Mötorhead), Biz Hairdressers and Mark Griffiths Family Butcher (Mark has worked in the village for 34 years). The range sold by Tesco overlaps with that of Spar, the newsagent, the fruit and vegetable store, the pharmacy, the butcher, and to a lesser extent, the post office and take-aways (although Tesco might also be making electric guitars out back by now, possibly for Coldplay).

Near the locally-operated Budgens on Cardiff Road are the Bank of Flowers florists, and a convenience store attached to the Texaco garage. The other main shopping hub in the village is around the green, where you can find, among other shops, the Village Stores (selling fruit and veg) and The Wild Blackberry (deli).

There are plenty of community blogs out there recording local shop closures after the opening of a Tesco in a village or small town. The arrival of competition from Tesco, for example, may be the last straw for struggling independent businesses. In the UK there is an alarming rate of shop closures: 25,000 closed shops since the start of the Millennium, with more than one in seven high street units standing empty, according to press reports this week that focussed on an independent review chaired by Mary Portas (see below).

The large village of Dinas Powys (population around 9,000) is bucking the trend for UK-wide shop closures. As of today (16 Dec 2011), there has been only one recent closure (Lifestyle Furniture & Kitchens on Cardiff Road). The small shops in Dinas Powys have loyal customers, who can recall how shopkeepers have operated beyond the call of duty (e.g., during adverse winter weather) to help their customers. If customers keep supporting these local shops they can co-exist with a major retail chain. Valley View Fruit Stores, and other locally-owned stores in the village, also use local suppliers, so by supporting local stores you’re also supporting the local farmers, bakers, pie-makers and so on, who supply the shops. Profits are retained in the area. Tesco’s shelves are notable for their absence of locally-sourced products.

A Tesco opening need not have an adverse impact on local shops. In nearby Penarth, a Tesco Express opened last year and appears to have had minimum impact; though Penarth does have a vibrant local food scene. This revolves around independent stores, like Foxy’s Deli, David Lush Butchers, Arth Wines, restaurants (e.g., The Fig Tree), and local community group Gwyrddio Penarth Greening. A local traders’ discount scheme and several food co-op schemes have been established, in addition to a food festival that celebrates local businesses.

The protests in Dinas Powys have finished (there were no protestors this morning). Few planning objections were upheld (one being the proposed sign on the green by the oak tree, but Tesco appear to be occupying this space with their flags and banners regardless). Tesco Express is now part of Dinas Powys’ retail community. Tesco is the UK’s top supermarket and this is because it is popular, therefore it will be widely welcomed within the village for bringing the best of convenience shopping to Dinas Powys. It may mean more people shop in Dinas (rather than go to, say, Penarth). However, if the long-established local shops at the heart of the village’s community start to close, then Tesco will have helped to “rip the heart out of the village” as protestors predicted.

How will things work out in Dinas Powys? I’ll keep you posted.

The Portas review (commissioned by David Cameron) stressed the importance of local shops within the heart of communities, and acknowledged that the expansion of major supermarkets has been a factor in the decline of traditional high streets. It made 28 recommendations designed to benefit entrepreneurial traders and maintain the diversity of shops:


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