Thursday, 26 June 2008

The onslaught continues apace...

Well it hasn't taken long, has it? Almost directly opposite the unlawful Starbucks cafe on St James's Street, a clothes shop has begun clearing its stock out to make way for a new tenant: Tesco Express. The issues, of course, are quite different: while Starbucks needed (in theory at least) to get planning permission, as it sought to change the use of a building from a shop to a cafe, Tesco don't. As the site's already an 'A1 retail outlet' they can just open - and will. This is clearly a massive weakness in the system. It's been well-documented that a new Tesco store will take money that would otherwise be taken by local businesses, forcing some of them to the wall, and that any profits they do take will be whisked away from the local community, impoverishing us all (except Tesco's owners) a little. Local residents and traders are, unsurprisingly, staunchly opposed to Tesco moving in and futher chipping away at St James's Street unique character (as ward councillor I have already started receiving complaints about it - and its opening isn't even common knowledge yet!). but there's nothing the council - or anyone else (lawfully at least) can do about any of this. Of course Tesco has deep pockets, and can afford to run at a loss while it forces the competition to the wall - and therefore denies shoppers the effective choice to take their business elsewhere - so there's little chance that even a consumer boycott could work. But I feel a responsibility to try, and I certainly won't be shopping there.

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