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Saturday 25 July 2009

Supermarket Sweep – Take 2

Here in Crewe, the drive by the various supermarket chains to cover more of the area’s retail space with their stores continues, apparently unchecked by the various authorities. I looked a while ago at the blatant competition posing as “choice” on Nantwich Road: now the tactic has moved closer to the town centre, and on a much larger scale.

Five years ago, the town’s B&Q was one of two adjacent stores just to the south of the car parks that flank the police station (the other was MFI). B&Q moved to a larger store opposite the end of Nantwich Road, to be replaced by Dunelm Mill. And then MFI went bust. So now, both stores are slated to be “redeveloped”, which means demolished and replaced with something else. And the something else is a new and non-trivially sized Sainsbury’s store.

But Sainsbury’s already have a Crewe store. Indeed they do – but the former Kwik Save, sandwiched between Edleston Road and Brooklyn Street, is more of a community store. The new outlet will be, as Charlie Croker told Camp Freddie, big. And it will be right opposite the town’s largest Tesco. Now there’s a coincidence.

Moreover, to make the best use of the space the site will provide, the new store will be built so that it stands directly above part of the car park – an idea that the Tesco “Extra” outlet at nearby Altrincham uses. So that’ll be a 400 plus space car park, and another big supermarket. Do we need it? Well, the shelves at Asda weren’t exactly bare earlier this afternoon, and neither was there much problem getting through the till and out the door. After all, that misses the point.

Sainsbury’s have done their homework. The Tesco store opposite has no room to expand, other than into its own car park – unless the present building were demolished and another new “store on stilts” built as replacement. And the Tesco is small by their standards – it’s a conversion of a Safeway outlet – with less than ideal product range and, it has to be said, appalling customer service. The new store will offer a newer and larger space than its competitor, and there will even be a petrol station, one of the few plus points for the Tesco.

“Choice” will be the justification, but in reality this is about Sainsbury’s putting one over on Tesco. And the local authority? East Cheshire Council are minded to approve.

Let battle commence.

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