The central shopping area of a south coast resort is about to be transformed by the arrival of the supermarket giant that is Tesco. The reaction from existing retailers to the arrival of such a powerhouse is often portrayed as akin to despair, where the only thing certain about the future is bankruptcy. However familiar that view is, it is not necessarily a true reflection of how smaller retailers see a trading juggernaut as it rounds the bend and into sight.
In Hove, for example, the UK’s largest supermarket chain is parking a 37,000 sq ft trading vehicle on a site zoned for food retail use in an area that swarms with potential customers. And, in a straw poll conducted by The Grocer, the vast majority of retailers and residents see nothing but benefits flowing from Tesco’s arrival (see panels, right).
Most of the area’s Georgian mansions are divided into flats occupied by 20 and 30-something commuters, while young families inhabit the former workers’ cottages.
Combine them with the area’s retirement pensioners, and there is a good demographic for a supermarket.
With its large sales area and more than two dozen tills, the new store fills a block between two main roads. It will house general food and grocery, an instore bakery focusing on speciality breads, a meat, fish and deli section and a hot chicken counter, but no pharmacy. There will also be a coffee shop.
So that the area does not lose valuable parking space, the chain has included a 300-space car park in the development to compensate for a pay and display area which held a 100 cars and was sacrificed in the run-up to planning approval.
Just round the corner from the new site is a pedestrianised thoroughfare, George Street, where there are branches of WH Smith and Boots, cafés and assorted shoe and clothes shops and health food stores. One main drag hosts most major banks plus the library, while the other has Co-op and Iceland outlets.
The 10,000 sq ft Co-op store has an average 26,000 shoppers a week and expects to retain most. “An impact on our trade is unavoidable but we do have a healthy membership and loyalty card base in the area,” says a spokesman.
Keith Bryden, chairman of the Hove Business Association, agrees that, generally, traders believe the store will benefit the area. However, its opening has been put back to the end of September because of building delays. Bryden warns that the delay could hit neighbouring traders, primarily because of the loss of parking. “Traders hope to feed off consumers drawn to a high profile retailer, but if the opening is delayed shoppers will drive to where they can park and develop different shopping patterns.”
Sarah Best is the proprietor of Arches Health and Beauty in George Street, opposite the new store. The salon opens late three days a week and has a predominantly female clientele aged from 11 to 80.
“I am sure it will increase our trade, because there will be 200 women on our doorstep from the staff alone. It will be easier to do our own shopping and to get bits for the salon. I don’t think it’s going to take any trade from George Street and it will encourage people to come to Hove to do all their shopping. Nine out of 10 of my clients are delighted. Most don’t have cars. My older ladies are especially pleased about the café. It will give them somewhere to meet friends over a reasonably priced coffee.”
Jeff Jenkins is the owner of Jenkins greengrocers in George Street, which has been in business for more than 80 years.
“I am keeping an open mind. I think it will draw people to the area and the car park will help. I’ve seen supermarkets opening next to my shops before. I find trade is affected for the first couple of months and then it stabilises - takings even go up.
“This street still has a lot to offer. We buy fresh daily and knock down prices at the end of the day. We also offer a personal touch. People can buy just one egg or just one carrot - I think that’s important. I’m retiring in six weeks and my two sons are taking over, so I hope for their sake everything works out OK.”
Claire, 39 mother of a boy aged nine months
“I can’t wait. It’s within walking distance for us.
I don’t use the Co-op because it’s just so grotty, so I have to drive out to the big Sainsbury’s in West Hove.
But now I will be able to just wander down George Street, have a bit of a browse and do my supermarket shop all in one go. I even pass the Tesco Express by Hove station on the way - useful if I forget anything.”
Ruth Estlin, 36 human resources director
“I have mixed feelings. I am not a big fan of out-of-town shopping and I always go locally as much as I can. The store would be good for the price of my house and Tesco is better than the Co-op.
However, some lovely buildings have been knocked down to build it and I’m worried the traffic might be intrusive and that some local shops will die. Tesco has invested money in the local primary school though, which is a good thing.”
Colin Nicol, 33 communications engineer
“I think it’s great and I’ll definitely shop there.
The Co-op round the corner isn’t so hot and I have to drive to go to my supermarket. It will be handy and I also think it will benefit the area because local people will walk and do the rest of their shopping here.
“Others outside the area will also drive in.”
Mrs Thomas, retired
“I’ve lived in the area for more than 50 years. On one hand, I’m sad to see it changing, but I think Tesco will raise the tone and its products are of a high standard.
At the moment there’s only the Co-op, which I don’t like, and you are not able to park there, so the new car park will be a big boon.”