By LAURA FRIEDLANDER
A SIX-WEEK survey is to be carried out into the impact that the new Tesco store could have on retail and wholesale trades across Shetland.
Shetland Islands Council has asked consultancy firm AB Associates to undertake the survey which will aim to provide a broad-based analysis of the effect of recent retail changes in the islands.
The decision to carry out the survey was taken after local retailers expressed serious concerns about the possible negative effects that the arrival of the new Tesco store could have, along with its proposal to expand the store’s South Road premises by as much as 40 per cent.
Managing Director of AB Associates Andrew Blackadder confirmed that the SIC economic development department had approached the company asking them to carry out a survey that would evaluate the impact that Tesco would be likely to have on the local community.
Mr Blackadder said: “This will not be a full impact assessment as the timescale of only six weeks to carry out the survey does not really allow for this, but we will be looking very closely at the effect the new store might have on the sales of food and perhaps comparison goods such as clothes if the store does go ahead and expand its premises.”
Mr Blackadder added that local trade associations had already begun to implement their own survey by sending out hundreds of questionnaires to businesses in Shetland.
Mr Blackadder said: “There has been concern expressed by local businesses, but I hope that we can produce a balanced result that will show the possibility of Tesco having a positive effect on trade as local producers and suppliers are encouraged to supply Tesco with their products.”
Douglas Irvine of the economic development department said: “The survey will examine both the sales figures and employment in the retail and wholesale sector and the impact on the wider economy, taking into consideration the local competition and the opportunities for local suppliers. The survey is expected to be completed by the end of August.”
Meanwhile the first week of trading at the new Tesco store was described as “fantastic” by store manager Paul Clelland.
After one or two teething troubles with stock levels running very low on the first two days, staff at the store soon resolved the problem and everything was running much more smoothly by the end of the week.
The frantic trading during the first two days of the store opening had seen supplies of fresh foods being quickly depleted. Mr Clelland said: “Demand was really high for fresh fruit and vegetables especially, but I have been pleased to see that this is the case as we aim to provide as big a range as possible of these products. High demand should be a good incentive for local producers whose goods we are looking forward to stocking in the store.”
The coming weeks will see the the introduction of McNabs fish, Malcolmsons bakery products and Mainlands vegetables. The store is also hoping to stock locally produced Shetland lamb in the not too distant future.
Mr Clelland said: “We are already stocking local milk and dairy products and many more local products are really ready to go. We are just getting them ready to be put into our system so that they can be scanned at the tills.”
The first week of trading saw 16,000 customer transactions at the store with a high average spend. The most popular products were fruit and vegetables along with meat and poultry.
Mr Clelland said: “I was pleased to see that meat and poultry sold so well too. Staff will listen to customers’ requests and will respond to whatever the customer wants whether that is going to be organic products, for example, or long life goods. We will be stocking lots of eco products too.”
He said customers in Shetland did seem to be environmentally aware, as 20,000 free re-usuable shopping bags were all gone by Thursday morning, and when they were used up, customers seemed happy to buy those shopping bags that were on sale in the store.
Many customers have been happy to see the friendly faces of staff that they recognised from the former Somerfield store and Mr Clelland said staff morale was much improved in the new store as new training schemes have been introduced. Mr Clelland said that Tesco recognises the importance of staff care as well as customer care and he would be hoping that staff would see a job at Tesco as a long term position with prospects.
Meanwhile, local retailers are continuing to hit back at the feared negative impact that Tesco might have on their businesses. Bressay store manager Brian Law has put up a poster outside the shop stating that the Bressay shop can provide similar goods at similar prices without the time or expense involved in travelling to the Tesco store.