Sir; The purchase of Jacksons by one of the Big Four should serve as a final warning to government and the sector that without some government action customer choice will be seriously eroded, many communities will be left without adequate retail services and the multiples will soon gain a huge share in local retailing.
The last few months have seen the demonisation of companies such as Tesco which is doing just what it is allowed to do - buying as much of the market as it can in order to reward its shareholders. What is so surprising about that?
What is surprising is that we have a government that has seen the impact of allowing public companies to consume each other at such a rate that we now have only four serious players on the big box scene and one of them now looks sick because it “only” makes £675m profit per year. It begs the questions of what does this situation produce for your average customer as regards choice and who could ever think of moving into this particular market in the future?
The implications of the same happening at local retailing level offer a much greater threat to the way local communities are structured. It concerns the welfare of hundreds of small businesses - retailers, suppliers, bank managers, builders, accountants and so on. Many go out of business when consolidation takes over.
It not only concerns choice for local shoppers but in particular for the older and less mobile members of our community who are affected by national reviews and management of local services - just look at how quickly Tesco is shutting down post offices in its newly acquired One Stop estate.
It concerns the environment - how many corporate food retail businesses buy locally and sell locally? Less than a handful because they have award-winning supply chains to fill.
This is not sour grapes because I am talking as someone who is indirectly profiting from what is going on, Spar’s membership has grown in an unprecedented way over the last 24 months and I expect that to continue as independent retailers increasingly recognise the need to collaborate within groups like Spar.
I also speak as someone who has seen at first hand the value of real competition and a balanced market where all factors are taken into account before competition is defined.
Being part of the International Spar network has shown us that the light hand of legislation can work as long as it is balanced - Ireland and France are living examples of this.
The government has got a choice to make - it can look the other way while local retailing is lost forever or it can demonstrate some real vision and leadership - the only thing that matches the volume of consumer concern in recent months is the government’s deafening silence - that is just plain unacceptable.