Supermarket sweepstake

Lichfield’s Tesco barely seems to have been closed for five minutes and already the ironwork shoots of a replacement are starting to spring up.

The first stage of the new Tesco development. Pic: Sam Ackroyd

The first stage of the new Tesco development. Pic: Sam Ackroyd

The new store will change the city’s landscape both physically and on the shopping front, bringing the ‘all under one roof’ flavour to Lichfield.

I’ve already questioned the merits of this type of large scale development so close to the city centre in the Friarsgate delay post, but there must surely be concern for the future of Lichfield’s other five supermarkets when the doors do reopen.

If you include Iceland and Marks and Spencer in the city itself, then the battle for custom is likely to rage once Tesco returns to the playing field – and I can’t help but feel that something will have to give.

Which one of the big guns will feel the pain of Tesco’s return to the greatest extent is difficult to call. Morrisons always seemed busy even before their main rival took a sabbatical, while Waitrose’s position in Toytown Darwin Park and the status it occupies in the hearts and minds of Lichfield’s supermarket snobbery should see it safe.

The two German contenders are likely to enjoy the flipside of Waitrose’s success. They cater for very different markets, although it’ll be interesting to see whether Aldi’s trade suffers from the huge superstore it’ll soon be in the shadow of.

And that leaves Co-op as the last of the big guns and, in my opinion, looking the most likely of the the shopping horses to be pulled up before Becher’s Brook.

The position of the store in Boley Park should be a bonus, but it’s the lack of identity the supermarket has had which throws up all sorts of problems. The closure of Tesco finally seemed to put a rocket of the backside of the Co-op and they’ve re-jigged the aisles and given the place a lick of paint.

But Co-op just doesn’t seem to have as strong an image as the competition. It is also likely to suffer in the same way as Aldi because, geographically, it’s almost in the shadow of the new kid on the block.

Even with the new look and the influx of customers following Tesco’s sabbatical, the store never feels as busy as any of the others.

The people of Lichfield may well have had room for all these supermarkets 12 months or so ago, but the financial downturn and the visible reduction of people in all shops in the city make you wonder whether there’s an appetite for five major stores in such a close vicinity.

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

4 Comments

  1. Julie Kaine

    8th March, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Some good points made with Lichfeldians able to enjoy the variety (and costs) of Waitrose whilst others enjoy being able to walk to those Germanic supermarkets with their Spend a little Live a lot mission statements. Yes, the Co-op has been vastly improved in recent weeks (despite the rule of no flowers outside, always a welcome site). It is now always busy when I visit but not necessarily a cheaper option with many products actually more expensive than Waitrose! With a city population of about 30,000 people I think the city can uphold the current 4 supermarkets in addition to Iceland which is always useful for centre city dwellers and the odd staple.

    The overall population of Lichfield district is expected to rise
    over the next 20 years with the more mature age groups making up a greater proportion of the population, many with reasonable retirement incomes. Unemployment is still relatively low and income levels are generally quite high although many people work outside the city. These demographics are already, undoubtedly, influencing the way in which services and facilities need to be delivered throughout the city. Let’s remain positive that Lichfield can support 5 major supermarkets with its diverse population.

    What is very depressing is walking through the Three Spires Shopping Centre with yet another shop advertising its Closing Down sale, that will be the third and counting, I think….and that’s a whole new blog.

  2. Alex Stinton

    8th March, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Even if Lichfield can’t support all these supermarkets would anyone be that upset if one of them closed?

  3. Sammy J

    8th March, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    The reopening of Tesco’s could have a much wider impact, especially on the Three Spires Shopping Centre. If, as expected, the new superstore stocks the clothing and electrical element of Tesco’s stock, then places like TJ Hughes could really suffer.

    Could you imagine if TJ’s were to suffer heavily at the hands of Tesco? Without the main store, consumer confidence in the whole precinct would fall and it would have an almost domino-like effect on those who remain I fear.

  4. Alex Stinton

    8th March, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    It is a worry that Three Spires will take the worst hit. If it was just the chains that suffered and it helped the area avoid becoming even more of an identikit precinct I wouldn’t mind, but that won’t be the case. It will be more like what happened to Sheffield when Meadowhall opened, cue tumbleweeds and pound shops.