Supermarkets built in edge of town centre locations do not lead to the decimation of local trade or the crumbling health of the town centre’s retail offer, a report published this week claimed.
The report is a three year, two-region study examining the impact of foodstore developments on UK market towns and district centres. The study, covering Shepton Mallet, Ilminster, Crewkerne, Warminster, Haydock, Gorton, Whitefield and Cheadle, aims to reflect the consequences of refocused retail planning regulation - which from 1996 onwards prioritised a ‘town centres first’ approach to retail development.
It claims supermarkets built in accordance with the ‘town centres first’ policy encourage fewer local residents to leave the town for their main food shopping, and that shoppers link their supermarket trips with visits to other shops, increasing town centre footfall.
It found local traders said new stores were likely to be ‘good’ rather than ‘bad’ for their own business. More traders (43.5%) believed the ‘general economic climate’ to be the primary factor for decline in sales, rather than a new store from the big four grocers (15.4%).
The findings go against the widely held belief that edge of town supermarkets decimate local trade.
Tesco executive director Lucy Neville-Rolfe insisted that while the grocer funded the research, it was carried out independently, and the University of Southampton picked the centres it wanted to study.
She said: “We have our findings but we encourage other research, as it is powerful to have real research rather than just opinion.”
She said the report shows that the ‘town centres first’ policy is “starting to bite” and that the arrival of a Tesco or other large foodstore can be “a magnet” for other businesses to open around it, and to encourage shoppers to stay in the town centre longer.
The research was carried out with 8,000 consumers and 1,000 traders.