Tescollapalooza 2010

Tesco – the harbinger of high street doom, or the panacea of Britain’s shopping woes? Their name alone invokes some passionate emotions, if you immerse yourself in the blogs and writing of ‘foodies’, you would readily surmise that the Essex-based, grocery behemoth was responsible for everything that is wrong with the English attitude to food. That it single-handedly bought down The Great British High Street.What they are less vehement about in their prose, is the idea that it’s the British populous who are the guilty ones – not only killing The Great British High Street™ , but breathing oxygen onto the supermarket forest fire.

I’m aware supermarkets increase profit margins, by decreasing the amount they pay English farmers for their produce, but I have only a passing sympathy for an Industry which received £2,000,000,000 in EU subsidies alone, in 2008. [1]

The truth is, whilst its business practices may be far from perfect, no one forces people to shop in their 2,306 UK stores. Businesses don’t put a gun to anyone’s head and force them to buy one and get one free, people make that choice.

I often put forward the argument that supermarkets should be treated like normal shops, where you buy certain items from certain chains – things they do best. Only to be met with the response ‘Oh no, I haven’t got the time/patience to do that!’ Well if you can’t be bothered to visit more than one supermarket, you obviously can’t be bothered to traipse up and down the high street either.

Same is true of online grocery shopping – if you’ve ever clicked a mouse out of sheer convenience, don’t ever tell me that you care about the state of Britain’s independent shops.

It was this state of mind that jumped out at me in a recent article in The Guardian. Bemoaning the prospect of an 18th Tesco store opening in Bristol, an intrepid reporter was dispatched to see how many of these stores it was possible to visit in one hour. This kind of idea seems so good in a news or features meeting, but somehow always disappoints in print. On his journey, colour was provided with quotes from locals, all telling of how they would go elsewhere, but it [Tesco] was cheaper/more convenient.

It did, however, get me thinking… how many of Britain’s biggest retailer were local to me? So onto the website, postcode in… 19 Tesco stores [2] within 10 miles of my house – actually they all fall within 7 miles of my house – making them even more local!

Working on the principle that no-one makes anyone visit their stores, I chose to visit all 19 in a day. If you don’t believe me, here’s the proof.

Oddly, given the futile nature of the activity, I did realise a few things, along the way. Many of today’s house building follows patterns set in the 60’s. Where as back then, these estates were merely expansions of villages and small towns, today they are satellites of cities and much bigger towns. Where as then, the village shops and high streets were a stone’s throw from these new-builds, now they are a car ride.

Of the 19 stores I visited, 15 were Express stores, some of these were glorified newsagents, peddling little more than snacks, booze and fags, but the majority filled the brief of a ‘local shop for local people’. Having said that, I don’t think I’ll be going to a Tesco for a little while.

[1] https://statistics.defra.gov.uk/esg/publications/auk/default.asp

[2] Those stores, in case you were wondering, were 1. Bletchley, Buckingham Road MK3 5BP   2.Bletchley, Melrose Ave MK3 6PB    3. Furzton MK4 1EN    4. Shenley Brook End MK5 7HH    5. Oxley Park MK4 7BU    6. Greenleys MK12 6AX    7. Wolverton MK12 5RJ    8. Newport Pagnall MK16 0JR    9. Heelands MK13 7PN    10. Oldbrook MK6 2JB    11. Springfield MK6 3JH    12. Kingston MK10 0HA    13. Walnut Tree MK7 7AN    14. Old Farm Park MK7 8QU    15. Tinkers Bridge MK6 3DD    16. Bletchley MK1 1DD    17. Linslade LU7 2PJ    18. Leighton Buzzard LU7 1ER    19. Leighton Buzzard, Appenine way LU7 3XW. Phew!

2 comments on “Tescollapalooza 2010”

  1. Glenn T's comment - added on 21st of March, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    I prefer Asda! One thing about these stores they have big ‘polish’ isles, but I can’t seem to find any Mr Sheen! Can you solve the puzzle!

  2. Debs's comment - added on 21st of March, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    I am very proud to be on the other end of the phone in photo13, I hate Tesco me, we used to call it Tesco Chuckout when I were a lass (I believe the tagline was actually Tesco Checkout)

    Let’s all go to Tesco’s
    where Deborah gets her best clothes
    tra la la la
    tra la la la