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Convenience stores have a downside
ONLY LAST week another supermarket chain opened a store in Oxford.
The new Co-operative shop on the corner of Walton Street and Little Clarendon Street began trading on August 29 and is the 12th Co-op to open in the city.
This is part of a growing trend in Oxford, and indeed nationwide, that has seen supermarkets spread as the big chains compete with one another.
And the trend shows no signs of slowing down, with Tesco set to open a store on the site of the former Fox and Hounds pub in Abingdon Road.
The Oxford Mail also revealed that Sainsbury’s and Morrisons both hope to move into London Road in Headington, which is already home to Waitrose, Iceland and Co-op stores.
In the last five years alone, four new Sainsbury’s stores, three Tescos, two Co-ops and two Marks and Spencers opened in Oxford and a new Waitrose supermarket replaced the Somerfield store in Headington.
That brings the total number of Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Co-op and Marks and Spencer stores in Oxford to 30. The stores created hundreds of jobs and are popular with tens of thousands of shoppers in the city.
Although supermarkets may not be popular with local traders, there are many benefits to the number of stores opening, such as convenience and jobs.
Almost 600 people, for instance, are employed by Sainsbury’s across its seven stores in Oxford, while 19 jobs were created at the new Co-op store in Walton Street.
Russell Chapman, store manager of the new Co-op, said: “It is great that the opening of this new store has created jobs for local people.
“Colleagues have enjoyed the first few weeks of trading and are beginning to build good relationships with customers.”
But as big chains increasingly flex their muscles, the impact on independent business traders in Oxford can be devastating.
The 200-year-old Covered Market is home to independent food stalls and is described as a jewel in the city.
But the dominance of supermarkets and rising rents has made life for traders there ever more difficult.
Gordon Piggott, of McCarthy’s fruit and veg in the Covered Market, said: “Supermarkets have destroyed independent businesses.
“In the last 20 years, people’s shopping habits have changed and it’s all about convenience for people now.
“We’re not getting as many people through our door, which is a great shame as the Covered Market is a special and unique place.”
Owner of the Big Bang restaurant in Oxford Castle, Max Mason, agreed.
He said: “It’s a great shame to see so many supermarkets opening as I am someone who fights for the independents in trade.
“But they are able to open because they have the consumer demand to do so.”
And with even more supermarkets set to open across Oxford, the debate will rage more strongly than ever.
A positive influence on jobs, trade and community.
- George Bowden, from Sainsbury’s, said: “We believe our stores have a positive impact on employment, trade and community groups in and around Oxford. We offer good jobs for local people, increase footfall into the area and customers enjoy free parking at our supermarkets. We aim to help the communities in which we trade through fundraising opportunities, Sainsbury’s charity partnership programme and practical support for local community groups. We also work closely with local schools on a variety of projects.”
- Mark Wilson, general group manager at The Midcounties Co-operative, said: “Midcounties Co-operative Food stores have strong links with the communities in which they trade and we have deep roots in Oxfordshire, where we have had a presence since 1872. We now have 50 stores in the county employing almost 1,800 colleagues and serving 58,000 members, and we continue to invest in the area.”
- Simon Petar, from Tesco, said: “We invest and employ in communities where we can make a positive difference. Our customers live and work in the areas where we have stores and it’s very important that all of our shops, Express through to Extra, play their part in the community.”
- Julie Dean, from Marks & Spencer, said: “The future of shopping lies in giving customers multiple options to shop their way – even more convenience. By being able to offer customers a variety of formats – out-of-town, high street, convenience food, and channels – mobile, online, phone – we are doing what we know works for them.”
Market traders struggling.
Gordon Piggott, manager of McCarthy’s fruit and veg in the Covered Market said: “Supermarkets have destroyed independent businesses. In the last 20 years, people’s shopping habits have changed and it’s all about convenience now.
“I have worked as a baker in a supermarket and so I have got a little bit of inside knowledge. Although there is more job security at a supermarket, there is not as much job satisfaction as you are just a body at a big chain.
“Since Tesco opened in the city centre (Magdalen Street, August 2010), all the independent stores in the Covered Market have been struggling. That really pulled the rug from underneath us.
“We get many older people who shop here but don’t get as many doing their weekly shop. When the university students are here, we get a lot coming and supporting us.
“We are all specialists here and if you shop here you get service from a knowledgeable person rather than just picking it off the shelf.”
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