By NEIL RIDDELL
SUPERMARKET giant Tesco is to offer customers in Shetland 10,000 products at prices in line with its national pricing policy when its new store opens next week.
The South Road store has undergone a substantial makeover in recent weeks and is due to open its doors at 9am on Monday, with staffing levels having almost doubled to over 140 since Tesco took over from Somerfield earlier this year. Store bosses are expecting a rush.
For the past two months the Co-op has been Lerwick’s only large grocery outlet, while a number of country shops have seen a significant upturn in business.
Next week the Co-op itself will begin a refit of its Holmsgarth Road store, which will increase its retail space by 20 per cent, but the supermarket does intend to remain open while refurbishments are being carried out.
Local consumers have broadly welcomed the arrival of Tesco, which controls over a third of the national grocery market and now has stores in all but one postal district in the UK, but retail groups have raised concern about the company’s predatory tactics.
Shetland Retailers’ Association chairwoman Janet Davidge said local shops would just have to “bite the bullet and get on with it” but added that she feared the consequences if Tesco gets the go-ahead for its proposed extension work to increase shop floor space.
Among the changes to the Tesco store, previously owned and operated by Presto, Safeway, Morrisons and most recently Somerfield, aisle shelves are being packed higher than previously to accommodate a wider range of goods within the existing shop floor, though the store will still be predominantly selling food, along with a small selection of white goods.
Tesco continues to go out of its way to emphasise what it claims is a strong commitment to the use of local produce and the pursuit of environmentally-friendly policies.
Agreement has now been reached with five companies in Shetland to provide an indigenous supply of bread, milk, beer, lamb and fish products and it claims to be hoping to bring the number of local suppliers into double figures eventually.
The company said this week that Shetland Farm Dairies will be the company’s “primary” milk supplier, Mainlands is to provide seasonal vegetables and Malcolmson & Co. will take care of the supermarket’s sandwich display. A variety of Valhalla Breweries’ ales will also be on sale and McNab’s will supply fish products.
But Ms Davidge remains deeply suspicious of Tesco’s behaviour with regard to local suppliers. She said: “Their reputation goes before them. They know what to say, but I don’t trust them as far as it goes. I’ve heard all the stories about them squeezing down the prices from local suppliers. Once they get them where they want them, they want a lesser and lesser price.”
In a break with Tesco’s national policy, plastic bags will not be openly displayed at checkouts – although they will still be available upon request – and the company is planning to give away 20,000 reusable bags.
Two charge-free cash machines, operated by RBS, have been installed at the shop’s main entrance and the existing car park has been re-tarred. New checkout tills have been installed and a further two have been added, while the aisles have been widened.
The store manager is Paul Clelland, 35, who has been with the company for 13 years and previously managed the store at Lochee, Dundee. Mr Clelland, who was born in North Lanarkshire and raised in Yorkshire, is the only new employee with the company who has been shipped in from the mainland on a permanent basis.
The company has parachuted in a further 12 senior members of staff on a temporary basis to ensure a smooth transition.