Small, local shops have been under intense pressure for years. Excessively high rents, increasing red tape and growing supermarket competition have all taken their toll. Thousands have gone to the wall leaving whole communities bereft of vibrant shopping areas, so vital to ‘community spirit’.
In recent years the greatest threat seems to have been Tesco’s expansion into high streets using their ‘Tesco Express’ brand. Smaller in size and focussing on convenience items, but benefiting from Tesco’s purchasing power’, they deliberately target those who don’t wish to visit out-of-town sites for small, daily purchases.
In order to get permission to open up in small high streets they are often prepared to give ‘promises’ that they will not directly ‘attack’ local businesses’. For example, in Cuffley (Hertfordshire) they agreed not to install a Lottery machine as local newsagents already had.
Cllr Brent Cheetham
However, after opening in 2007 they recently installed just such a machine thus breaking their ‘gentleman’s agreement’. Local and National Liberal Parish Councillor Brent Cheetham led, with others, a campaign to remind them of their “amnesia and broken promises” and was later supported by the local newspaper. Tesco immediately put the decision on hold.
A SMALL VICTORY
After a flurry of press letters, Tesco finally relented. In a letter to Councillor Cheetham, the Head of Tesco’s Regional Corporate Affairs, stated that after ‘having listened to the local community, I am pleased to say we will not be introducing (the) lottery to the store’.
It was a very small but significant victory for ‘Shop Local’ campaigners and we congratulate Brent and all of them for their vigilance. Sadly however, the decline of the small shop is relentless. In the absence of local or national help e.g. tax breaks, rate discounting etc the mantle of resistance continue to falls to residents to spend some of their hard earned cash in their shop. As the slogan says ‘Use them or lose to them!’.