Yoking a supermarket and a DIY superstore together is not without its problems in the scramble to become smaller.
Picture this. You want to have a barbeque (OK, so the last Bank Holiday of the year’s over, but play along) and enjoy the remaining ultraviolet that this country can provide before the customary autumn murk sets in. You head for Morrisons in Norwich, where else, all set to pick up sausages, burgers, chicken legs and the requisite relishes and salads.
And while you’re there, your fancy might turn to some power tools, tiles and perhaps a few washers for those leaky taps. ‘What? The shopping mission is all about food, why would I need that kind of stuff?’
Well, one answer might be because it suits B&Q to give up 60,000 sq ft of its space in this fine cathedral city to Morrisons. The current received wisdom is that small is beautiful and big is not and that oversized stores need to be made more diminutive. This creates the potential for strange bedfellows.
In the normal run of things, a grocer and a large DIY store would not be the natural combination if you were putting together a retail proposition. Just off London’s Finchley Road, there is a large Sainsbury’s (it’s part of the O2 centre) and it shares a car park with a branch of Homebase. Entry to the car park is through a barrier and cars either turn left for Sainsbury’s or right for Homebase. Rarely do you see shoppers heading for both – because they are separate shopping trips.
Yet that is the reality of what has been done in Norwich and it’s hard not to indulge in a little head scratching and wonder if this really is the mutually beneficial thing that promoters of downsizing within the two retailers might be thinking it is. Apparently we make, as a nation, more trips to the shops these days and the rise and rise of convenience is testimony to this tendency.
Yet do we really want to have widely contrasting propositions under the same roof when we go shopping? The need to deal with surplus space in these days of internet and convenience shopping has never been more pressing. The question that really needs to be asked however is what exactly is appropriate when considering how to do so? The Norwich example is a case in point and it will be interesting to see how readily shoppers accept it, supermarkets and clothing notwithstanding. Downsizing may not be quite the panacea that some imagine if undertaken at any cost.