So, quite the polarised debate on Facebook over the last few days. Good thing / bad thing? Yes or no?
Nearly two thirds of UK households visit a Lidl or Aldi at least once every 12 weeks (1). So it’s not really surprising that it has polarised opinion.
Also, research has repeatedly shown that opening a ‘big box store’ adversely affects smaller grocery shops (2). And it has been said that opening a superstore in or near a town ends up having a net negative impact on employment available in the town.
A basic weekly shop will definitely be cheaper – cheaper than driving to Lidl/Aldi elsewhere, cheaper than non-discount supermarkets cheaper or more convenient than shopping on Fore Street.
And it will create jobs in the town.
And perhaps it will be a force for good, sponsoring community projects and groups.
But, many of the people who like to shop at large brand suermarkets will stay loyal and still travel to their preferred supermarket.
And most of the people who avoid supermarkets, or want to avoid waste, or want to support local businesses, or like good, personalised customer service, or like being treated well, or like a chat now and again, or don’t like piped supermarket music, or don’t want to be hurried, or like to have some direct influence on the products available, or like transparency, or like to see how their shopping directly affects their community/ parish/ county/ country/ planet, or like some peace and quiet while they shop, or like some help with the kids while they shop, or like to buy exactly as much as they need, or like to buy products from local suppliers, or like to know where their bought products come from will continue to shop in Fore Street and Station Road.
So, which one of those is most important to you? That probably gives you your answer.
Whatever your preference, please have no doubt, it will have an effect on the town. What about:
- Some shoppers will switch from Sainsbury’s/Tesco in NA. And some shoppers will switch from shopping in Bovey Tracey town centre. Can the independent shops attract more shoppers than they lose to Lidl? – and they will definitely lose some. If yes, then great, but if one, or two, or three can’t and they have to close, those shops may never be replaced with other food shops. Is it ok for those shops to remain empty? Maybe they get replaced with non-retail businesses – estate agents, dentists, accountants, opticians, cafes, hairdressers, charity shops or houses instead to support the growing population. Is that ok? What if all of the independent shops close – is that ok?
- Is a petrol station included in the plans? What does that mean for the two stations on Newton Road? And what if one or both were to close and the site or sites become derelict? Is that ok?
- When Aldi follows Lidl to Bovey, is that ok? What about when Mere from Russia follows in a few years? What about Tesco’s new bargain brand chain ‘Jack’s’? Is that ok?
- How do you balance between money coming into the community from new jobs for Bovey-resident Lidl workers versus money leaking out of the community from Bovey Tracey shoppers to non-Bovey-resident Lidl workers and to Lidl owners in Germany? I don’t know.
- Should we consider the local trades people who support small businesses? What happens to them if small businesses close and the large business uses large national contractors for maintenance and repairs?
- What about the local businesses who supply to small shops in the town?
And that’s all before we get into any discussion about: construction traffic, shopping traffic, roads, schools, doctors, green spaces, electricity supply, refuse collection, building works, flood plain, rainwater run-off, air pollution, emergency services, etc. Building a Lidl will definitely exacerbate these issues (bad), but may actually drive us to solutions faster than only the residential development would (good).
I don’t know the answers, but I do know I will have to continue to work hard to keep building my business. And I can also take a few minutes to look at the effects it’s had on other towns of a similar size and population profile.
So where does that leave us?
We’re asked by Lidl:
- Do you support the development in principle?
- Do you think a new Lidl food store would be a benefit to the area?
Is that the best way for a decision like this to be made?
I bet Mr Schwarz and his team in Germany knows the answers, but I haven’t really got a clue to be honest.
So, heads says ‘yes’; tails says ‘no’ then?
I know I can’t possibly make a fully informed decision, so I’m left with these considerations:
- What do I want the town, where I live and work and which I love, to look like and do I want to see empty shops?
- As a customer, I shop locally, I avoid waste, I support local businesses, I like being part of a community and I like good customer service. And, as a business owner, I definitely don’t want to lose any customers – ever. So, it’s a selfish ‘no’ from me.
Your answers on a postcard please….