Friday 25 October 2013

Now Open - Every Little Helps?

Consett Tesco is now open for business, it is by far the biggest supermarket in Consett, and is very similar to any other big Tesco anywhere else in the UK. One interesting technology development is the scan as you shop facility. You take a scanner round the store and scan the bar codes as you add items to your trolley. The scanner has a screen so you can keep track of how much you have spent as you shop. This won't make Tesco as cheap as Barry's bargains on middle street but at least you won't get a nasty shock at the till.

There are many reasons why people would object to having a large Tesco built on the edge of their town. It may adversely affect small businesses in the town. There is already a medium sized Tesco less than a mile from Consett at Delves Lane: This will be closed so there is some balance there. People from outside Consett may come to Consett to shop, and it may attract further development as happened in Team Valley and more recently Kingston Park, two places where people from Consett go, but probably wouldn't have been to if it wasn't for the large retail parks there. Many people commute from the the Derwent Valley to the Newcastle area and will use the superstores there. The Consett commuter is more likely to shop closer to home as a result of this development.

Tesco have been implicated in the Workfare scandal; they have been accused of taking people on jobseekers allowance to stack shelves instead of paying a wage for this. Large supermarkets pay many workers low wages which require them to remain on benefits. By employing a workforce that is subsidised by taxpayers, supermarkets are effectively making profits for shareholders because the state allows them to avoid paying a living wage. The living wage argument is compelling but I feel that debating this would not be appropriate at a time when over 1 million young people are out of work. It is an argument for another day.

Tesco always seem to attract controversy: Their charity work attracted criticism when work support for cancer research was reduced and they sponsored the gay pride festival shortly after. They are criticised by farmers for driving down the prices of British produce. They have been castigated by a Celebrity chef for chicken welfare standards, and most recently they are the first retailer to postpone retirement until 67. I hope all retailers gradually adopt more ethical practices both in the way they source their food and in the way they treat their workers.

There are positives to the development: After a long wait, almost a lifetime in my case, something is happening on the steelworks site. What is in symbol of the humiliation of unemployment will bring employment, around 250 jobs. Morrisons is also expanding, Argos is looking at the old Morrisons site and there is talk of B&Q being interested. Tesco will contribute £400 000 towards town centre regeneration1 which may do little to appease local traders but is some compensation.

Retail may seem an unlikely development at a time when people do not have a lot to spend but there must be demand: There are plans for 3000 new homes in the area; population is increasing; it is time for Consett to look to the future. Added to the school and sports centre on the old Civic Centre site, we are looking at developments worth in the region of £100 Million2 being built in Consett in the next few years and although a state of the art school, a Tesco Extra and other retail outlets are not going to solve the problems of unemployment and lack of opportunity, every little helps.

2. A conservative estimate

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And Morris Muter, managing director of Project Genesis, said: “Tesco did pull out in March, but they are now reconsidering. We have been told they will come to a decision on June 19. We will be bitterly disappointed if they do withdraw.

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