‘One-stop-shop’ Tesco will leave Lerwick town centre a ghost town, says retailers’ chairman

Lerwick town centre could become a ghost town with a “poor image” if Tesco is allowed to become a one-stop-shop, Laurence Smith of the Lerwick Town Centre Association told the community council yesterday.

Mr Smith said empty shops and more charity shops could result if Tesco is allowed to sell non-food items in its new extension, due to begin opening this week.

He hit out at the retail giant, saying it was flouting its planning application by intending to sell “personal goods” in a much greater area than the 185 square metres currently permitted.

The planning application, he said, had been for “convenience goods” only, specified by Tesco as food and drink, cigarettes and tobacco, kitchen and cleaning products, pet food and newspapers and magazines.

But now it had turned out that Tesco planned to sell, among other things, books, car care products, homeware, phones, TVs and other electrical items, health and beauty items, toys and clothing. Clothing, he said, would have a “whole new area supposed to be for a staff room”.

Head of planning Iain McDiarmid said later that nothing could be done before the extension breached any planning agreements. He said: “We understand the concerns of LTCA and expect any developer to stick to what they applied for and had permission for. We will be keeping an eye on what’s happening, our building standards people are there on a daily basis.”

Mr Smith said that to retain the “vitality and viability” of Lerwick’s historic town centre, the sale of non-food items must remain strong.

He, and other local retailers, will “struggle” he said, if Tesco’s expansion in non-food items goes ahead. He cited Tom Worthington of Conochie’s, who predicted “losses are inevitable”, the staff of electrical retailer George Robertson who said they will not be able to compete and “it will be damaging to long-established local businesses” and staff of the Camera Centre, who had seen shops affected in similar circumstances on the mainland.

And owner of Clive’s Record Shop Clive Munro said: “People may think Tesco being allowed to stock whatever they want will lead to greater choice and lower prices but the reality is that it will lead inevitably to less choice and the ghost town scenario will be that much more likely.”

Lerwick’s town centre was already “fragile”, Mr Smith said, and a large out of centre retailer could have a huge impact on a small town – a report from Wick, Caithness, where Tesco had been established, said the town centre was “absolutely dead”.

Mr Smith indicated that Tesco had said in May 2008 that there would be an increase of 33 per cent in retail floorspace. By June 2008 it had told the council it would be 50 per cent – in December 2008 it was 70 per cent and in April this year it was 80 per cent.

Scottish Planning Policy states that “out of centre locations should only be considered if it can be demonstrated that there will be no adverse effect on the vitality and viability of existing centres”.

And the Shetland Local Plan insists that an independent retailing study (carried out at the applicant’s expense) has demonstrated that the town centre would not be prejudiced, and the applicant signs an agreement limiting the amount of non-food shopping space.

The plan states: “[T]he council recognises personal shopping has a key role in maintaining a healthy and vibrant town centre. If the personal goods sector is allowed to decentralise, the long-term vitality and viability of the town centre would be seriously compromised.”

Tesco submitted an impact study with its planning application. However, Mr Smith said, the study was based on the sale of “convenience goods only”. Tesco went on to say that its impact study “provides a robust assessment of the potential effect of the proposal upon the vitality and viability of the town centre and concluded that ” that there would not be any significant impact on the town centre of Lerwick.

But Mr Smith said the impact study was clearly now in question.

He said the “aggressive” supermarket appeared to have no respect for either national policy or the local plan and a one-stop-shop would be “disastrous” for the town centre. “It’s a very real, very serious issue.” It was essential to keep non-food as a town centre strength and to develop a retail strategy for the area, he said.

He appealed for the community council to share the association’s concern for the historic town centre, to recognise Tesco’s plans were at variance with their planning application and to recognise the knock-on effect.

Community councillor Jonathan Wills said: “All we can do is express sympathy [for the LTCA]. We have been assured by planning that the conditions would be enforced. Planning conditions are imposed for good reason. If these are now being undermined [the sale of non-food goods] will have to be stopped.

“We will be in touch with the planning department to ensure the conditions are adhered to.”

Tesco had “severely damaged” the centre of Alloa, he said, but remarked that the supermarket would never have the “ambience” of the street.

Member Billy Stove said the issue was “up to the planners”, and said that the street should move “upmarket”. And member Robbie Leith said he agreed, and felt that the street had already lost vitality. Car parking was another problem in the town centre, he said.

Mr Smith agreed a retail strategy and a parking strategy needed to be looked at, and it was also time to review the pedestrianisation of Commercial Street.


Add Your Comment
  • L.Lester

    • July 6th, 2010 23:38

    I really think that certain people in Shetland should wake up and smell the coffee, and realise that even people that live in Shetland deserve not to be ripped off by some retailers who charge over inflated prices just because they think they can get away with it because they are on an island. I would not like to see any retailers go out of business but I believe that those who trade to make a quick buck should not be in business, afterall everyone deserves good value and choice in the 21st century.

  • Stuart Stenhouse

    • July 7th, 2010 10:43

    Further to the on-going Tesco saga, I would ask all those who presently trade from ‘the street’ if they purchase soley and exclusively from the street? Can they honestly say they have never purchased from the internet or south? I seriously doubt they, or any of us can; thus making complete hypocrisy of the ‘pro-street’, ‘anti-Tesco’ rhetoric.

    Tesco is a store I personally seldom use, in preference chosing either the more ‘ethically’ sound CO-OP; or either of the local shops we have at the south end.

    Upon opening of Tesco’s extension it is up to us whether we visit that store or not, just in the same way it is our choice whether to use ‘the street’. If anyone feels strongly enough the answer is simple – shop locally, and boycott the big boys.

  • donald mckay

    • July 7th, 2010 14:55

    the street is already dead and that was before tesco came to shetland

  • Peter Mckay

    • July 7th, 2010 17:08

    Why should the majority be punished by a minority who believe the street will fail? First the school moving would end the street, now Tesco. Time for the retailers to wake up! More and more people shop online due to the scandalous prices and that is the problem with Shetland retailers – greed – it has been for years. I for one use Tesco and just wish they would get the petrol pumps up to sort out the scandalous prices we are charged. And I bet all the street whingers all use Tesco so all I can say is bring on Tesco and ring the bells of change. And if the street fails then tough! They had it coming they don’t even operate to modern retailers’ times, Wednesdays off and only open at half nine. Well live by the sword die by it.
    And there should be no more money wasted on the development of the town either. Why don’t they fit the bill instead of the taxpayer.
    Like the money wasted on CCTV cameras because of a certain few. We have more CCTV cameras than San Fransisco.

  • Robin Gosden

    • July 7th, 2010 17:49

    “Mr Smith said that to retain the “vitality and viability” of Lerwick’s historic town centre, the sale of non-food items must remain strong.”
    Does this mean closing on a Sunday when there’s a cruise ship in town? One ship last month arrived that could carry over 2500 passengers and 1000 crew the town centre closed for the day but at least the Tourist Office was open.

  • terri nash

    • July 7th, 2010 20:31

    What ever happened to freedom of choice. I have lived in Shetland for the past ten years and in that time I have never seen the town any busier or make any effort to keep its captive audience. I think think these words ring all to true of the town (You have nowhere else to go) But how wrong they are as at least 99% of us shop online or go on a weekend trip to aberdeen and stock up. In a nutshell if you want shetland to thrive give people the choice, Let other buisnesses start up, Attract more from south. It will create jobs and help boost Economy. If no choice and expensive to live more people will move away. I for one will not line the pockets of the town for very little in return.

  • Sandy McMillan

    • July 8th, 2010 1:29

    What Tesco proposes to sell from the store will maybe make the fat cats of the town centre sit up and take notice of Tesco’s prices, and maybe maybe bring their prices down instead of making a quick buck from the people. Tesco’s is the best thing that has happened to Shetland since sliced bread.

  • I Anderson

    • July 8th, 2010 14:42

    I own a small rural grocery shop and have had to compete with the supermarkets all my time but instead of ‘fighting’ them I just tried to sell what I could to my customers who cannot get to these big stores. I myself have shopped in all these stores when I needed something that my shop didn’t stock and find it very enjoyable to do so but also very expensive as I invariably come out with no less than £50 worth of super stuff that I didn’t really need. This is what all my customers say and it is true, but in saying that I do not think it’s any use trying to stop Tesco from selling what they want as we can get it all with a touch of a button anyway, and don’t the Town Centre people realise the amount of people who flock to Lerwick for the supermarket shopping and that most of them are VERY likely to drop into other shops while they are there. Lighten up and get your shops fitted out better and we’ll all shop on the streets, and we will if we can get what we want and not old stuff that other people don’t want as there are far too many recycling/charity shops.

  • j johnson

    • July 8th, 2010 19:33

    Mr Smith is only worried about losing money because he’s ripped off people in Shetland for years. I think it’s about time cheaper stuff came to Shetland as its cheaper for me to take my wife and two kids on the boat down to Aberdeen with a cabin and buy clothes and stay the night and come back up the next night than it is to shop in the town centre. I think Mr Smith and Harry just need to grow up and stop conning this Shetland community. They claim to care about Shetland but all they care about is ripping people off.
    All I can say is thank you Tesco for giving us Shetland people a better and cheaper life.
    P.S. please bring fuel to Shetland, it is also needed.

  • A Anderson

    • July 9th, 2010 11:14

    I totally agree with all of these comments! It’s time that the money-grabbers took a step back and and look at what they are doing. The street will not die out because of Tescos, people have loyalties, people they have always bought their new TVs etc. from people they trust. Everybody loves a bargain but it has to be of good value. Tescos will not be able to sell everything that is sold on the street.

    I think that the Town Centre Committee should update their group a bit more, OPEN ON WEDNESDAYS! Open for the tourists, they complain about loosing out on business and they are closed half the time!

  • M Madigan

    • July 10th, 2010 5:16

    The shopkeepers on the street have had it good for many years. It’s time for us to benefit now and that’s where Tesco’s come in. I for one go there at least three times / week, once for a big shop and the rest of the time for bits & bobs. I have no misguided loyalties. I will go wherever there is good value and good service…and that’s something else i’ve noticed with Tesco’s, the staff are always friendly and talkative, not like some of those ignorant mindless teenagers employed on the street, Chonochies being the perfect example, especially on a Saturday!!

  • ritchie groat

    • July 11th, 2010 15:29

    I see some of the folk want Tesco to have petrol pumps to get cheaper petrol. Can I say they are living under an illusion. Tesco has the dearest petrol of all the Supermarkets with Asda Morrisons and Sainsbury generally cheaper. If it wasnt for Asda or Morrisons we would not get cheaper petrol at Tescos as they react to Asda/Morrison price cuts. Tesco are after as much Profit as they can get and would charge the same price as the local suppliers. I have proof of it here in South Queensferry. They would expect the convenience of pumps at the Supermarket would be sufficient and it works. Tesco has no consideration for local traders. They only fear ASDA , Morrison at the top end and Aldi and Lidl at the bottom end which is why they have to notices on some items telling you the price at Aldi,,Asd etc. Edinburgh is turning into Tescoville and I expect to see one in the Castle very shortly. They have also opened several Express shops which have closed local shops that have served the community for years. When Tesco opened here we lost our fish shop, our butcher shop, one of our newspaper shops and the local Scot Mid Coop supermarket reduced in size .

  • J Pottinger

    • July 12th, 2010 17:28

    Clives Record Shop has nothing to worry about – where else in the world can you browse through such a diverse range of music. The only reason I haven’t been lately is because you don’t get peace to browse with two toddlers at your feet. There will never be another Clives!

  • A Rundle

    • July 21st, 2010 16:38

    Lerwick town centre will survive. I live on an estate in Newport, a South Wales city ‘blessed’ with a Somerfield, sainsbury’s, Morrisons, two ASDS’s, twho Tesco Extras (The really big ones) and a Tesco Express (the city centre ones). Guess what? The local stores are still there. The recession has bitten hard but the town centre shops are still busy most days. Same with all the other local towns. I, personally, live 500 meters from one of those Extra stores. I use it for general shopping as they have pretty much all I want. For specifics, I use the local shops as Tesco often lags behind on quality in favour of quantity. Lerwick will survive this.

  • C Joyce

    • July 23rd, 2010 9:17

    In my view there are three important changes you could make to the street:

    Sunday opening
    Cheaper prices
    A completely covered in pedestrian precinct

    Sunday opening is a must nowadays with people working strange shift patterns to suit employers needs. Quite often a Sunday is the only day I have available to shop, so I go to Lerwick but am unable to buy any white goods so invariably buy them on line.

    Cheaper prices – come on shopkeepers – wake up. Cut that fat profit margin for once. Stop lining your pockets on our needs. You will be put out of business you know and it will be because you never woke up and smelt the coffee of change. It’s not Tesco thats your problem. The internet is cheaper and easier to use. It doesn’t cost anything in petrol to shop online. Even Tesco has to compete against it, that’s why they offer an online purchase system in most areas. And a question for Tesco – Why don’t you offer this to outlying areas? You do in most other places!
    Shop keepers, change with the times or you will be left behind. I’m sure if all the Street shop owners clubbed together they could order stuff onmass and get a reasonable discount which could be passed onto their customers instead of put in their wallets.

    Now the pedestrian precinct idea. In this day and age it would not be impossible to roof the street over, nor would it be un feasable to stop ALL traffic to it between the hours of 0830 and 1830. Just plan your re stocking differently. Also a revamp of the actual shops inside would be good. Make them more customer freindly. Make sure your staff are cheery and helpful and don’t disappear out the back or continue reading etc etc. Look what Boots has done with that tiny shop they took over. It’s quite nice to shop in there, a bit small at times, but you can easily see what they have. A mini market. Comprendi?

    However I am not against Tesco being allowed to sell anything they want (or at least the range they sell anywhere else). If you try to stop them from selling their range of products purely because you feel it will financially hurt another shopkeeper then you are on a sticky wicket. That is definately favouritism and a local council has to be impartial and favour all the people it represents, not just a select few.

  • M Nicolson

    • July 26th, 2010 20:10

    To generalise the Street saying they’re all money grabbing and greedy is a bit overly no?

    And I’d like to point out when that big cruise liner came in – with 2500 passengers or however many it actually was – that not all the shops were shut. Many DID open and many DID see the benefit of having them open. But to ask all shopkeepers to open on a Sunday every week of the year is out of the question really.

    When you go to Aberdeen or Glasgow their shops are open on Sundays, because they have the population to sustain the wages and expenses that comes with opening a business on an unconventional day. If the street was actually going to break-even with opening on a Sunday it really would need those 2,500 tourists every Sunday. With limited bus services on Sunday’s as well, not everyone has the access to get to the street .

    Yes the shops are a bit dated and some of the staff are unhelpful but come on, stop complaining about these shops by generalising them all with the lazy teenage staff and the poor choice and expensive prices and actually do something about it.

    I’m all for Tesco’s expanding and would DEFINITELY like to see pumps being installed at the shop but a lot of these anti-street comments are against certain LTCA members and really shows a lack of support for the community, if you are unhappy with the service you are getting do something about it and complain to the shop keepers!


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