On the eve of the opening of Tesco Express in Coldharbour Lane, LJ blogger Daniel Mazliah looks at the rise, and rise, of convenience supermarkets in the Junction.
Tesco and Sainsbury’s are both opening stores in Loughborough Junction, practically opposite each other in two disused pubs on Coldharbour Lane.
Local groups and the council are busy working on a Master Plan for the area. But the arrival of the supermarket giants could have a much more immediate impact.
The big question is will it be the moment that Loughborough Junction becomes ‘up and coming’? Or does it spell the end for the high street’s independent shops?
I walked past Tesco. Shop-fitters are working hard to get it ready for Friday’s big opening – but someone’s thrown paint across the doors.
Tesco must be used to a backlash. Good PR is about getting your arguments in first. A few days earlier a press release arrived at the Brixton Blog celebrating 18 new jobs.
Today a second release: Tesco donates to local disability charity.
Here’s new shop manager Liam Willitts: “In this time of economic uncertainty, it is great that we are able to create jobs for our local community and help get people back into work.”
Sainsbury’s is also on the charm-offensive. Emma Garner from their property team gave me this message for residents:
“All our stores play an active role in the communities they serve and our Loughborough Junction shop will look to support local charities through our Charity of the Year scheme and schools through our Active kids programme.
New jobs, greater grocery choice, charity donations, community schemes: what could be bad?
Down the road is Super Savers – a seven-days-a-week, 24-hour convenience store that sells, well, pretty much everything. Manager Mr Ali says they’ve been there for 30 years. I probably go in once a day.
But rents have gone up on the high street and Mr Ali fears this could be the final nail in the coffin for some of the local shops.
“It’s bad for local business. I’m worried about Tesco and Sainsbury’s. All our customers are saying they will keep coming here. We’re cheaper than Sainsbury’s. But let’s see what happens.”
You don’t have to Google very far to find tales of loss-leading milk and other tactics to worry independent shops.
Chandra Sharma, chairman of the Federation of Small Business’ South East London Branch, explains that ‘struggling’ local shops will be worried that “customers will be driven into the hands of large retailers.”
But while it’s true that some residents I’ve spoken to are looking forward to buying the kind of products that only supermarkets stock (sour cream and organic baby food have been mentioned), just as many profess strong ties to the current crop of local shops.
Resident and teacher Paul Hinchliffe said: “I’m not sure it will change the high street in Loughborough Junction for the better. I can already buy most things I need from the existing shops. If it’s the beginning of lots of new investment in the area then that’s great but no one will guarantee that it will be.”
Perhaps there is hope for the likes of Super Savers. And as Paul suggests, maybe the prospect that the supermarkets could spark the long-awaited wider regeneration could help soften people’s views of Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
Finally I spoke to local councillor Carol Boucher who said: “Local neighbourhoods, within cities, require a mix of retail outlets to service a wide range of needs, particularly in the current economic climate. To this end, the potential to incorporate both ‘high street’ names alongside local independent outlets should help to develop Loughborough Junction as a town centre for all its residents.”