Thursday, November 23, 2006
Asda (Wal-Mart) and then Tesco for Galashiels
I don’t know what the situation is like in the USA, but over here a real source of contention is the impact huge supermarkets have on small country towns.
Here in the Scottish Borders, our local council (our version of local government) sticks to a policy that says supermarkets must be in town centres.
This is to try and prevent small, independent retailers like little shops, losing trade if the supermarkets are on the outskirts of towns.
The belief is that shoppers travelling to out-of-town supermarkets will do most, if not all, of their shopping in these big stores.
However, I believe this policy is now discredited. In my home town of Galashiels here in the Borders - population just over 13,000 - we currently have two small supermarkets.
But this week, the first of two large - for us anyway - stores opened on Monday, when Wal-Mart subsidiary Asda, threw open its new doors to customers.
And in just a few weeks, an equally large store will be opened by the supermarket chain, Tesco, just yards away from the new Asda.
Both developments are on the site of what was the old local railway yard, close to Galashiels’ town centre. But since both also sell such items as books, clothes, electrical goods, stationery, etc., as well as foodstuffs, what will be the impact on the nearby small town centre shops?
Added to that, is the fact these two large souless, plastic-fronted square buildings add nothing to the town’s built environment.
Indeed, in another development currently underway in the town, a 19th century stone mill with working waterwheel, was bull-dozed flat last week to make way for a new shopping mall.
If this kind of development continues, my home town will no longer be the home town I remember.
Of course, Galashiels needs a modern supermarket. Such enterprises bring good, quality foodstuffs, at affordable prices to the town, as well as jobs.
But there has to be a balance and supermarkets have to also start ensuring that a set amount of their stock is sourced from local small suppliers, otherwise they will be the next casualty in this ‘store wars’ battle.
You can feel it now. A slow, but sure, upsurge in feeling among people that such big stores being dropped onto small towns, like some kind of retail ‘carpet bombing’ offensive, is having a devastating impact on the way we shop and, to a certain extent, the way we live.
And not always for the better.
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