For historical development of small shops up till the 1950s, see ‘how did food deserts develop

 

For current retailing, market share, expansion and other commercial issues specific to individual supermarket chains see Supermarket Market Share.

 

For current planning issues concerning the retail sector, see ‘how did food deserts develop’

 

CONTENTS OF THIS PAGE  Back to home page

 

1) Origin of out-of-town shopping

  1.1) Early American shopping centres

  1.2) USA, economies of scale and armoury practice

  1.3) Edward Bernays and emotional marketing

  1.4) USA; self service and the retail abandonment of the city centre

2) Growth of out of town shopping centres in Britain

  2.1) UK economically behind the USA, held back supermarket growth in the UK

  2.1.1) UK economic problems, post World War II, RPM, and coping mechanisms by     the supermarkets

  2.1.2) Early UK shopping centres; Arndales, self-service, and Brent Cross

  2.2) Early supermarket developments from the 1960s

  2.3) Changing role of the Co-op

3) Social, economic, and demographic trends facilitating the growth of out-of-town shopping.

  3.1) 1980s deindustrialisation

  3.2) Car ownership

4) Growth of supermarkets in Britain

  4.1) Growth in numbers of supermarkets

  4.2) Growth in size of supermarkets

  4.3) Supermarket penetration into smaller formats, smaller towns

  4.3.1) Reasons for the shift to smaller formats by the supermarkets

  4.3.2) The clawback of trade argument

  4.3.3) Alternative strategies to smaller formats

    

1. Origin of out-of-town shopping

 

1.1. Early American shopping centres

 

On 16 September 1916 in Tennessee, USA, the Piggly Wiggly store opened at 79 Jefferson Street, Memphis.  Its owner, Mr Clarence Saunders, chose the name to intrigue people and make sure they remembered his store.  It was remarkable as being the world’s first self service store[1].  The stores proprietor promised to “slay the demon of high prices"[2].  This was very similar to the way Jack Cohen, founder of Tesco, happily acquired the nickname ‘Slasher Jack’, on account of the way he too ruthlessly cut retail grocery prices from the 1920s onwards..  From this time on, and up until the present day, lower prices became the key way for supermarkets to attract shoppers. 

 

Also in 1916 the world’s first out-of town shopping mall opened at Lake Forest, near Chicago.  In 1922 the Country Club Plaza opened at Kansas City, the second out-of-town shopping mall, and soon after the Highland Shopping Park opened just outside Dallas, Texas.  This Texas mall was the first to be centred on a pedestrian mall, rather than large stores arranged round a car park.  

 

Another innovation useful for supermarkets was the introduction of the shopping trolley – enabling customers to carry more to the till, so raising sales..  This was first used at the Humpty Dumpty supermarket in Oklahoma City in June 1937.  The size of supermarket trolleys has gradually been increased since then at many stores, as people often stop shopping when their trolley is full.

 

On 26 June 1947 the world’s first barcode was scanned, at a branch of March supermarket, in the city of Troy, Ohio, USA.

 

In 1956 the world’s first enclosed shopping mall opened, the Southdale Shopping Centre in Minneapolis. The developer of Southdale, Victor Gruen, reasoned that Minneapolis was too hot in summer and too cold in winter for a whole day’s shopping; so build an enclosed street with air conditioning, where customers could drive to in their air-conditioned cars, and shop without any of the non-retail distractions a real town centre might provide.

 

1.2. USA, economies of scale and armoury practice

 

These developments in retailing were part of a revolution in the US economy that had begun back in the second half of the 19th century.  The US knit together into an integrated continental economy, aided by technological developments as the transcontinental railways.  Also growth was spurred on by mid-West cattle ranching (itself helped by such humble inventions as barbed wire, without which there was insufficient wood for fencing the cattle in to make for viable ranching), and an innovation called armoury practice began to make its effects felt.

 

The idea of armoury practice was a standardisation of US army supplies so that, for example, a rifle made in California could fire bullets made in New York.  The benefits of standardisation for certain industrial components had been recognised in Europe; by, for example, Whitworth, who attempted a standardisation of UK screws, but the idea did not catch on so well in Britain where individual craft/workshop production held sway.  Armoury practice was the origin of Fordist work practices in the great US car factories; that and the wave of innovations in electrical appliances around the 1880s on, gave a strong US economy.  Like Europe, the US economy suffered in the 1930s Depression, being hauled out of it by government spending and the war effort of World War Two.  After World War Two the US economy was in much better shape than the European economies, and it was American Marshall Aid and political influence that led ultimately to the creation of the European Economic Community and hence the EU of today.

 

1.3. Edward Bernays and emotional marketing

 

The marketing efforts of Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, should also be noted.  Bernays, borrowing from his uncle’s theories on humans being influenced by deep and animalistic emotional desires, said that goods should be marketed, not as simply fulfilling needs but as satisfying these deep emotional wants.  Bernays’ first marketing success was to market cigarettes to women, who then customarily did not smoke, as ‘torches of freedom’ – women then were seeking the vote and more equality with men.  By shifting marketing from a needs-fulfilment to a wants-satisfying orientation, Bernays greatly increased the range and amount of goods people could be persuaded to buy.  Needs could be satisfied fairly quickly as technology advanced, but there is never a limit to the emotional wants people feel. Only now these wants are ‘satisfied’ by the purchase of material goods.

 

1.4. USA; self service and the retail abandonment of the city centre

 

Self service was a welcome innovation for US shoppers; they could pick their own goods, under less sales pressure, and they liked the bright clean shopping environment.  The main benefits were to the shopkeeper though.  Less shop staff were needed; the sales process was in effect as standardised as any Ford car factory, the customer bringing standardised goods to a standard procedure at the till.  Growing US prosperity meant greater car ownership and a flight by the wealthy to the suburbs, in part to escape the taxes levied by city centre councils.  Thus began the ‘hollowing out’ of many US cities, as only the poor were left; the city councils were faced with both a declining tax base and declining local wealth, and the two fed off each other in a vicious circle of decline.  The wealthy shopped at big supermarkets out of town, and these supermarkets grew on economies of scale and the increasingly wealthy spending power of their customers.

 

2. Growth of out of town shopping centres in Britain

 

2.1. UK economically behind the USA, held back supermarket growth in the UK

 

2.1.1. UK economic problems, post World War II, RPM, and coping mechanisms by the supermarkets

 

The UK economy remained in a parlous state through the early 1950s, as evidenced by the persistence of rationing.  The Second World War had taken a major toll on the economy, and Britain’s overseas commitments were now an expensive luxury that had to be given up.  Perhaps the Suez Crisis of 1956, as much as the granting of independence to India in 1947, symbolised the end of Britain as an imperialist power with its worldwide Empire.  From the point of view of supermarkets, car ownership in Britain remained well below US levels. In 1960 the USA had over 300 cars per 1,000 people, compared to 110 per 1,000 in Britain.  Britain also had Resale Price Maintenance, or RPM, which protected small shops by limiting the discount larger stores, with economies of scale, could give on many goods.  Tesco found a way round this by giving green Shield Stamps with purchases, which could be redeemed for catalogue goods.  However Sir Jack Cohen, founder of the first Tesco store in 1929 in Edgware, north London, lobbied the UK Parliament for repeal of RPM. In 1964 UK Parliament, under the Conservative Government of PM Edward Heath, passed the Resale Price Maintenance Act repealing RPM on many good.  By 1979 RPM only applied to books and pharmaceutical goods.  Other opponents of Resale Price Maintenance included the Swiss philanthropist Emil Duttweiler, founder of the Migros chain.

Tesco continued to offer Green Shield Stamps until 1977 when it replaced them with price reductions.

 

2.1.2. Early UK shopping centres; Arndales, self-service, and Brent Cross

 

The UK is also much smaller and more densely populated than the USA and had greater planning restrictions on out-of-town development, to preserve the countryside.  Local authorities tended to support town centre Arndale developments, which were accessible by the less well off, without cars, rather than encouraging supermarkets on the edge of town.  The Arndale concept had been pioneered by two Yorkshire developers, Arnold Hagenbach and Sam Chippindale.

 

These factors explain why retailing innovations reached the UK so much later than they first appeared in the USA.  Self service for example, which appeared in the USA in 1916, only reached Britain in around 1950. The first self-service store in the UK was either Sainsbury in St Albans or Tesco in Croydon; each company website claims theirs as first.  The History Today of November 2002, pp.34-5, claimed that the Co-op introduced self service to the UK as early as 1942 and that by 1947 there were ten self service Co-op stores in Britain.  The first purpose built self-service store in Britain opened in Eastbourne in 1952; the second such store opened at Southampton in 1954 (Trolley Wars, 2005, J Bevan, p.41)

 

The first out-of-town mall opened in the UK at Wilmslow, Cheshire, in the early 1960s; it was intended to attract wealthy Manchester businesspersons with their own cars, preferably two cars, so other household members could freely come and shop too.  Brent Cross, in the suburbs of northern London, opened in March 1976, offering the then revolutionary idea of shopping till 8pm, all week.  However the general opinion was that out-of-town centres would go no further in the UK and the future was in Arndale town centre developments.

 

2.2. Early supermarket developments from the 1960s

 

In 1961 Tesco opened a 1,650 square metre store at Leicester (less than a sixth the size of a Tesco Metro today), this store then being in the Guinness Book of Records as ‘the largest store in Europe’ (Daily Express, 29/2/2000, p.11).

 

After RPM was removed in 1964, several stores of 8,000 to 9,000 sales space appeared in the UK.  These included Tesco at Westbury, Wiltshire, opened 1967 with 9,000 square metres, and before that the GEM store in Nottingham, opened 1964 with 8,400 square metres (R L Davies, 1964, p.78). However the GEM store was atypical of today’s superstores, being on several floors of a disused warehouse in the inner suburbs of Nottingham.

 

In 1976 there were around 20 out of town shopping centres in Britain, including factory shops and retail warehouse parks. Even by 1986 there were fewer than 50 such developments, but there was then rapid expansion to around 250 in 1991, and to over 500 by 1998 (Guardian, 16/12/02, p.7, ‘Ghost town Britain looms’).

 

2.3. Changing role of the Co-op

 

Even the Co-op was forced to ‘rationalise’ (Save Our Shop, 1987, preface, p.viii), that is to shift its role from being a neighbourhood store and follow the major supermarket route of large stores, less accessible to some poorer consumers. That, or be undercut by the large supermarkets.  However in the 1990s the Co-op changed direction again and moved back into the middle ground so conspicuously abandoned by the major stores.  Joining the newcomers Aldi, Lidl, and Netto, the Co-op moved to become a medium sized supermarket serving less well off areas.

 

3. Social, economic, and demographic trends facilitating the growth of out-of-town shopping.

 

3.1. 1980s deindustrialisation

 

Growth of such out of town retail centres was spurred on by the deindustrialisation that accompanied the globalisation of the world economy and Thatcherite economic policies in the UK. As much of Britain’s heavy industries (e.g. coal, steel, shipping, chemicals and metallurgy) closed, replaced by overseas production in cheaper countries abroad, large sites became vacant on the edge of many industrial towns and cities in northern Britain. These were designated, by the Conservative administration of the 1980s, as Enterprise Zones, where companies, including retailers, could set up with few planning requirements and often generous rates, rent, and tax concessions. Local councils who resisted the development of retailing on these sites, in order to preserve their town centre retailing, were pressured by Westminster to fall into line.

 

3.2 Car ownership

 

Out of town shopping centres, from large regional centres like Meadowhall at Sheffield and Bluewater in Kent down to an average four of five thousand square metre supermarket on the edge of a town, depend crucially on road transport, in two ways. Firstly, fleets of lorries are needed to replenish the stocks at such retail centres. With the huge range of goods on offer, from a multiplicity of dispersed suppliers, there is no way logistically this could be done by an alternative transport system such as rail. Even if that were possible, labour costs of transport would be prohibitively high. Secondly such centres depend on customers arriving in the main by private car. Centres such as Meadowhall, Sheffield, and the Metrocentre, Gateshead, near Newcastle on Tyne, do have rail or tram links as well as bus routes. However car-borne customers are a much better bet. Not only can they carry away much more shopping, they are likely to be wealthier than customers arriving by public transport and so to buy more. In fact bus operators are unwilling to run routes to supermarkets if the supermarket is not on the route to another town where the bus would be running to anyway. Supermarket free buses, and the difficulties of carrying several bags of shopping on and off buses (pay-buses normally travel on radial routes to town centres so many would need two or more buses to access an out of town supermarket) mean the traffic on a bus route solely serving an out-of-town centre is rarely worth it. And this is even with the fact that shopping (and school trips) are the most important source of traffic to bus operators after commuter traffic, and that as the fleet size is dictated by the needs of the commuter flow, off-peak journeys are at marginal cost (driver’s wages and fuel only) to the bus company.

 

Numbers of private cars in the UK

 

In 1903 Britain had 8,000 private cars.

In 1911 Britain had 47,000 private cars.

In 1920 Britain had 125,000 private cars.

In 1930 Britain had 1,056,000 private cars.

In 1938 Britain had 1,944,000 private cars.

In 1939 Britain had 2,034,000 private cars.

In 1946 Britain had 1,770,000 private cars.

In 1948 Britain had 1,961,000 private cars.

In 1950 Britain had 2,258,000 private cars, and a total of 4,409,000 road vehicles.

In 1951 Britain had 2,433,000 cars and vans. With a population of 50.6 million, this gave 0.048 vehicles per person.

In 1958 Britain had 4,549,000 cars and vans.

In 1960 Britain had 5,648,000 cars, and 9,272,000 road vehicles. 30% of UK households had a car.

In 1961 the UK had 5,979,000 cars, or 6,114,000 cars and vans, and a population of 53.0 million, giving 0.115 per person.

In 1970 Britain had 11,192,000 cars. 50% of households had a car.

In 1971 the UK had 12,361,000 cars and vans, and a population of 55.7 million, giving 0.222 vehicles per person. 52% of UK households had a car.

In 1980 the UK had 14,772,000 cars, and 15,437,000 cars and vans, and a population of 56.0 million, giving 0.276 vehicles per person. 58% of UK households had a car.

In 1981 the UK had 15,250,000 cars.

In 1985 the UK had 16,453,000 cars, and 21,166,000 road vehicles.

In 1990 68% of UK households had at least one car.

In 1991 the UK had 19,000,000 private cars and vans.

In 2001 the UK had 28,000,000 private cars and vans.

 

Sources, N Wrigley, 1988, p.10, A Coupland, 1997, p.53, J Cullingworth, 1988, p.310, R L Davies, 1987, p.33.

 

However many elderly, poor, and disabled, still have no access to a private car.

 

The number of driving licences rose rapidly between 1965 and 1979, especially amongst women. In 1965, 60% of men aged 21-29, 68% of men aged 30-39, and 62% of men aged 40-49 held a driving licence. In 1965, 15% of women aged 21-29, 18% of women aged 30-39, and 13% of women aged 40-49, held a valid driving licence.

In 1979 the figures were, 72% of men aged 20-29, 84% of men aged 30-39, and 80% of men aged 40-49 held a driving licence, as did 41% of women aged 20-29, 49% of women aged 30-39, and 38% of women aged 40-49.

 

This growth in the percentage of women with driving licences is partly caused by greater female participation rates in the workforce, and an increasing number of two (or more) car families. Increasing worries about the safety of women on public transport is also a contributory factor. As people of all ages and both sexes abandoned public transport, this mode of travel did indeed get less frequent, and less safe to use, setting up a vicious circle of bus-to-car mode shift. Increasing general wealth levels also promoted car use. Public transport, especially bus transport, may well be what economists call an ‘inferior good’, one that is abandoned more and more by the wealthy in favour of a ‘better’ alternative. The trend towards shopping as a leisure activity, shopping done in the evenings after work or at the weekend, even on a Sunday, (partly because increasingly both adults in a household are likely to work) and shopping done in bulk so as to save on the number of trips necessary, also shifts transport mode towards the car. Public transport frequency falls off sharply especially in the evenings and at weekends.

 

4. Growth of supermarkets in Britain

 

4.1. Growth in numbers of supermarkets

 

For store numbers of individual supermarket companies, see 4.6 supermarket timelines.

 

Tesco, on its website, claims to have had the first British ‘superstore’ – that is, a very large unit on the outskirts of a town – with its 9,000 square metre store at Westbury, Wiltshire, opened in 1967, although Tesco itself did not use the term ‘superstore’ until they opened their store at Crawley, Sussex, in 1968. The GEM store in Nottingham, opened 1966 with 8,400 square metres sales space, is sometimes quoted as Britain’s first superstore; however this store was in the centre of town and was on several floors of a converted warehouse, so was not typical of today’s superstores. Other early large superstores were the Woolco store, 6,500 square metres, opened in 1967 at Oadby, near Leicester, and the Carrefour store, opened in Caerphilly in 1972.

 

Total number of supermarkets in Britain, 1960 = 0, 1965 = 1, 1970 = 16, 1975 = 70, 1980 = 280, 1985 = 400, 1990 = 775, 1995 = 1,000, 2000 = 1,200, or between 1,500 and 2,000 including the smaller Tesco Metro and Sainsbury Local stores. (S BURT, 1997, The Structure of the British Retail System). See supermarket timelines below for number of stores of individual supermarket companies.

 

Britain had 457 supermarkets in 1986 but 1,102 by 1997 (G Monbiot, ‘Captive State’, 2000, p.169). Many of those built in the 1970s and 80s were in out-of-town locations, where land was cheaper, access by wealthy car owners was easier, and there was a pool of cheap female labour nearby, willing to work part-time. There was an apparent slowdown in growth during the early 1980s because at this time many smaller inner-urban supermarkets were being closed as the newer out-of-town ones were being opened. By 1983 the average size of a Tesco store being closed because it was too small to have adequate economies of scale was greater than the average size of a Tesco store being opened in 1974.

 

In 1996 the Conservative Prime Minister, John major, introduced the PPG (Policy Planning and Guidance) series, intended to redirect further development of houses, shops, and much else towards urban brownfield sites rather than have more greenfield sprawl. Supermarkets, which came under PPG6 (Town Centres and Retail Development), finding it harder to gain permission for new out-of-town sites, have redirected their expansion towards local ‘Metros’ (Tesco) and ‘Local’ (Sainsbury) stores. However these tend to be in areas with high spending potential, such as tourist/office areas (e.g. Covent garden, London) or near commuter stations. They are not generally in poor areas, of low access to healthy food.

 

In 2002 Tesco bought the ‘One Stop’ chain and in 2003 opened the first one of these premises it so-acquired as a new Express store. Tesco will also reopen three former Co-op stores it bought in Bristol as new Express stores later in 2003 (Convenience Store, 18/7/2003, p.4).  Overall Tesco plans to convert 450 of the One Stop stores into Express stores, and keep the remaining 400 under their original fascia, refurbished, and stocking more chilled food.

 

4.2. Growth in size of supermarkets

 

In 1958 very few UK stores were over 200 square metres sales space, but by 1971, 5,000 UK stores were larger than this.

 

In 1963 W G McClelland considered that 1,000 square metres was probably the maximum desirable size for a UK supermarket, given problems of shoplifting and management. He noted that the USA had supermarkets of 10,000 square metres, but considered this size inconceivable here in the UK.

 

If globalisation is about economies of scale, the achievement of lower prices through bulk of production/sales can be done directly by increasing the size of the shop premises. Between 1974 and 1983 the average size of a new UK grocery shop that was part of a chain rose from 1,120 square meters (sales area) to 1,960 square metres. Over this period the average size of a store being closed rose from 150 square meters to 450 square metres. Smaller stores might be closed because they were on cramped inner-city sites, where deliveries were difficult due to traffic congestion, crime was high, and the wealthier local customers had left for greener suburbs and villages; it was also likely that these small stores simply lacked the economies of scale of their outer-urban brethren.  These openings and closures produced a rise in the average store size, operated by a multiple grocer, from 260 square metres sales area in 1974 to 860 square metres in 1983.  In other words the average size of a chain grocery store being closed in 1983 was nearly double the average size of an operating store in 1974. Older abandoned small inner city chain grocery stores might be used for staff training for a while; likely they would be abandoned and then taken up by cheap ‘everything a pound’ type outlets, most of which sell mainly non food and certainly very little fresh fruit and vegetables.

 

The average size of a Tesco store in the UK rose from 600 square metres in 1960, to 1,000 square metres in 1979, 1,800 square metres in 1983, and 2,200 square metres in 1988 (Alan West, 1988, p.35, Carl Gardner et al, 1989, p.177). The closure of many inner city Tesco stores meant that, between 1974 and 1983, even as Tesco’s total sales space rose from 460,000 to 680,000 square metres, its number of UK stores fell from 771 to 369. This hunger for bigger stores gave a powerful impetus to move the supermarkets to the edge of town where land was cheaper and there was the space for large car parks. In addition, food deliveries by road were easier here, the edge of town location gave easier access to the market of upmarket consumers who had moved out of town to dormitory villages, and the suburban location meant access to a pool of cheap, feminised, part time labour.

 

The average size of a store opened by Sainsbury between 1980 and 1985 was 3,500 square metres.

 

Sainsbury opened the first of its Savacentres at Washington, near Newcastle on Tyne. In 1985 the average size of a Savacentre was 7,000 square metres, but by 1996 this average had risen to 8,500 square metres. The average size of the last 6 Savacentres opened in the 1990s was 9,600 square metres.

 

4.3. Supermarket penetration into smaller formats, smaller towns.

 

4.3.1. Reasons for the shift to smaller formats by the supermarkets

 

In the UK, most of the best sites for large supermarkets have now been taken, and the llegislation introduced by John Major’s Conservative government in 1996 had largely put a halt to further building of large out-of-town superstores. In 1993 the Conservative Environment Minister, John Gummer, had begun to take measures to limit the growth of out-of-town supermarkets.  The rationale behind this was that out-of-town shopping was a major factor in increased car usage, causing pollution and traffic congestion.  Only where planning permission had already been granted by 1996, but not yet used, can new o-o-t stores be built, as for example, the new Tesco Extra large store just west of Scunthorpe, opened 2001.  This step marked a significant change from the laissez-faire approach previously adopted by British planners, and brought UK planning more into step with countries such as France, who had for some time been adopting a more dirigiste approach to such matters.  Under John Gummer the PPG (Policy Planning and Guidance) document series was introduced; PPG6 related to planning and new supermarket locations.

 

To gain more market share, and so more economies of scale, the supermarkets have been looking at smaller stores. They have done this in two ways. Firstly, smaller stores within large urban areas, and secondly, setting up branches in smaller market towns, of population as little as a few thousand.

 

These smaller format stores may be a greater risk to small local independent grocery shops than the big supermarkets on the edge of town are. A similar level of risk to independents may come from the discounters, Aldi, Lidl, and Netto, along with the Co-op. The independents had an advantage of accessibility over a distant o-o-t supermarket, but this is advantage is severely eroded if a small-format store with all the price-cutting power of a major supermarket locates in the neighbourhood 500 or 1,000 metres away. Computer technology has enabled even smaller branches to enjoy the economies of scale of larger supermarkets (P Langston, G Clarke, D Clarke, 1997, p.101).  Some local consumers will benefit, but not all.  Many elderly and disabled will not be able to access these local format supermarkets, because their walking distance is limited to a few hundred metres, especially carrying shopping, and they have no cars. They may well find their access to groceries decreases if a network of independents every 50 to 100 metres is replaced by locals 1 kilometre apart.

 

After Wal Mart took over Asda in 1999, Asda stores commenced an aggressive price cutting campaign, and Tesco also marketed its lower prices. This posed a threat to the discounters, Aldi, Lidl, and Netto. In the Leeds, West Yorkshire, area, there appears to have been a retreat from some supermarket premises by some discounters around 2002 and 2003. The predominantly frozen food store Iceland announced a drop in sales of 1.6% during the first 6 weeks of the 2004/5 financial year, after a o.7% increase in sales over the previous 12 months (Daily Telegraph, 28/5/04, p.28). This was blamed on the downwards pressure on grocery prices following the takeover by Morrison of Safeway. Iceland is converting (2003,4) many of its stores to a new format selling fresh food, hot bread, magazines, and tobacco, as well as frozen food; in other words it is moving more towards the convenience-store format, much as the Co-op has done.

 

‘The Grocer’, 1/11/03, p.6, states that the EDLP tactic of Asda and Tesco may have made consumers more aware of price and so more willing to use discount stores despite their narrower range and perhaps poorer shopping environment. The number of discount stores in the UK rose from 1,312 in 2000 to 1,475 in 2002, according to the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD), mainly due to the ‘aggressive expansion of Lidl’. Current planning restrictions on out-of-town supermarkets are said to be favouring Netto, which is shifting its focus to town centres.

 

4.3.2. The clawback of trade argument

 

The supermarkets use the clawback of trade argument to say they benefit small-town shops this way. They argue that putting a supermarket in a small town persuades the shoppers living there to also shop there rather than travel to a larger town. This argument was used to justify the opening of a supermarket in Exmouth, Devon, because it would keep shoppers in Exmouth rather than them travelling to Exeter. In Garstang, Lancashire, a Booths supermarket and a Safeway supermarket did improve the trade of Garstang’s smaller shops because the supermarkets provided free parking. However in Knutsford, Cheshire, the Booth’s supermarket apparently reduced the trade of Knutsford’s small shops, despite also providing free parking, because there was a main road separating the supermarket car park from the old town centre.

 

Clawback of trade may work if the pedestrian flows to the supermarket entrance pass smaller shops. Small shops in the Bramley Centre, west Leeds, co-exist with a large Morrison, and the small butcher can sell specialty meats not stocked by the supermarket. However in Brigg surveys indicated that shoppers in the town centre were not using the Tesco a hundred metres or so away, and vice versa. This was despite the Tesco having a large free car park, and allowing non-Tesco shoppers to use this; otherwise Brigg visitors would have to use a pay and display car park. This may be because flows to the Brigg Tesco came off the by-pass, and the route to the town centre was further on past the backs of the shops. Had the town centre been between the free car park and the Tesco, some shopping synergy would probably have resulted.

 

4.3.3. Alternative strategies to smaller formats

 

Alternatively the supermarkets can try and define suburban shopping centres as towns in their own right, and thereby claim that adding a superstore here is not in fact ‘out-of-town’. Such a definition reduces the concept of ‘town’ to a purely consumptional one, ignoring culture, history, and much else. For some residential areas this may not be far from the truth. Some supermarkets have been built with their own residential areas attached, a sort of echo of the nineteenth century company town, but one based on consumption, not production. Another tactic may be to acquire existing stores now selling totally non-food goods, or even to acquire entire shopping malls, and pull them down to build a new supermarket. The land use is already retail, easing planning permission.

 

Some supermarkets plan to add an extra storey, as they have ample ceiling space to do this, doubling their sales area. Planning permission should not be required here as there is no visible change to the building from outside, yet the supermarket sales space in competition with a nearby town centre would be doubled (Guardian 5/5/02, p.12). In 2004, Asda has plans to add an extra floor to 40 of its superstores. With kanban (just-in-time) delivery practices increasingly used by supermarkets, storage space is less needed, and some of this can also be turned into sales space, again without the need for planning permission. Some planning applications for new stores include large storage areas even though with kanban there is no obvious need for it. Local shopkeepers fear this is a way of getting a smaller store accepted that in the future can readily be converted to al larger one.

 

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[1] According to a letter in The Economist (2/10/04, p.16, John Manning), the Bon Marche department store in Paris instituted self service from 1869. It displayed its wares for customers to inspect, rather than a counter assistant bringing them from behind the counter, and it introduced price tags, so eliminating haggling between customer and assistant.

[2] A Seth et al, ,The Grocers,, Kogan Page, London, 1999, p.12