AS we reported last weekend (See News 25 June), a massive protest against new superstores has been growing in rural areas - but just how strong that feeling is was shown this week after the NFU magazine Countryside polled its readers.
The public may ot want it - but Tesco intends to double
the size of its Skipton store
Asked if they thought that more rural superstores would lead to the demise of smaller, locally owned food retailers, a staggering 87% said Yes. The No vote was a mere 9% and the Don't knows 4%.
As one commentator observed: "Figures like this remind you of the old days behind the Iron Curtain when dictators regularly claimed huge majorities in fixed elections. The difference here is that this vote was genuine and obviously reveals a huge swell of rural public opinion against further development of out of town sites."
The vote, however, will be of little consolation in the Yorkshire Dales where, as we reported last week, the Government over-ruled Craven District Council and gave the go-ahead for Tesco to double the size of its store in Skipton.
An interesting survey, however, maybe they should have asked the question as to how many of the readers shop in their local and village stores on a regular basis as well as these superstores.
My wife and I run a village store and have worked hard to develop the local customer base but I'm sorry to say the number of locals who really support us are in a minority and it's due to tourism we survive as a business. Now we know we can never compete with these superstores on pure price terms but we do try as the price marked packs in our shop will testify to. Also we do give far better customer service than these superstores ever could.
Unfortunately there are a significant number of local people who are more than happy to do a 40+ mile round trip to visit superstores in Skipton, Kendal and Lancaster rather than giving some of that business to ourselves and other local shops. With the price of fuel going up (and not looking likely to ever come back down) as well as the time and effort of actually visiting these stores if you put that into the equation these superstores are not as attractive a proposition as you might think.
One final point regarding the expansion of the Tesco superstore, the public may not want it but it will be interesting to see if their objections are turned into direct action by not supporting the store once it opens. I think I know the answer and it will be yet another nail in the coffin of local stores and the communities they serve.
Andy Rushforth - Horton in Ribblesdale