By NEIL RIDDELL
TESCO is hoping to cash in on the anticipated Christmas rush by opening its shop in Lerwick round the clock for three days during the festive period.
The South Road store’s manager Paul Clelland confirmed the store was planning to trade from 9am on Sunday 21st December through until 6pm on Christmas Eve, before closing for Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Meanwhile plans by the supermarket giant, which took over the store from Somerfield in July, to extend the premises by more than 50 per cent are expected to go before the SIC’s planning committee in early December.
So far, six objections from local shops and retailers’ organisations have been received regarding the application, which seeks to extend the retail floor space from around 21,000 to 34,000 square feet and to add an additional 76 parking places to the existing car park.
A submission from Tesco’s main supermarket rivals the Co-op, which opened its revamped Holmsgarth Road store yesterday morning, contended that the retail impact assessment which the company had submitted was “fundamentally flawed” because it based its figures on speculative trading conditions in 2013 when in reality it hopes to have the extension up and running in a matter of months.
Tesco is claiming the extension will account for 0.5 per cent of local trade in five years’ time, but chartered planners James Barr, on behalf of the Co-op, argue that is based on inflated projections for the growth of retail in the isles and that a more realistic figure is 11.5 per cent.
The company, whose own refurbishment saw its retail area increase by a fifth to around 15,000 square feet, described the basic premise of Tesco’s application as “at best misleading”, “unjustifiable” and likely to have “a long reaching, and potentially irreversible, damaging effect on retailing in Shetland”.
Electrical appliances store George Robertson Ltd., which trades on the Hillhead in the town, submitted its objection on the grounds that smaller outlets will be unable to compete with Tesco’s prices and that some may have to close, stating that if the application was successful it would be “a disaster for local communities and Shetland as a whole”.
Those concerns were mirrored by the Lerwick Town Centre Association, the Shetland Retailers’ Association and the Shetland branch of the Federation of Small Businesses. James Smith, chairman of the latter, wrote that “the expansion of food and drink and greater diversification into the non-food sector are … of serious concern” for the strength of local economy.
Mr Smith’s letter continued: “The expansion of large supermarkets is a concern nationally. We do not wish Shetland to be subjected to the same pressures that have undermined many small towns and rural communities throughout the UK.”
Local children took on star status when they performed the ribbon cutting ceremony to open the refurbished Co-op yesterday.
Pupils from Bell’s Brae were presented with a donation of £200 for school funds by store manager Don Wilson to mark the occasion.
“As a community retailer it is appropriate that we involve the community in our special events and we are delighted our local school is playing a central role in the re-launch of our store,” said Mr Wilson.