18 July 2014

#Tesco Expansion Plans with Timpson, Threaten The High Street and Not Just in Shepton Mallet!

Tesco have teamed up with Timpson and plan to provide Dry Cleaning, Watch and Jewellery repairs, Engraving, Shoe repairs and Key Cutting Services at their Shepton Mallet store. This is the information that I learnt today, from a fellow trader on the High Street, in Shepton Mallet.

To be honest, the Tesco here in Shepton Mallet is a sore point with the locals, many people actively refuse to step a foot inside the store but many people that live in Shepton Mallet, work in Tesco and visit the High Street too and the site does provide a couple of hours free parking and it doesn't mention you have to be their customer in order to park there. So, as in many situations there are positives and negatives and many mixed feelings.

I decided to Google about the Tesco and Timpson situation and have found out that there are several other places that have had exactly the same kind of planning permission application! Applications have gone in for Shepton Mallet, Bridgend, Cheltenham and Royston and I discovered those after just a five minute search, so there are bound to be more coming our way, across the UK. Looks to me like Tesco is trying to cope with a shrinking market. Yes, people have less money, the economy is down, they too have to find ways to increase their profits.

I however, envisage the High Street going into decline, with the footfall falling even more than it already has done, over the past year that we've been here. It is distressing to hear of shops, beautiful, quirky independent shops having to close, not because they have failed but because it is unsustainable to continue renting on the High Street, so the business runs but online, or from home.

Incredibly, as I was writing this piece, a couple walked into our shop, in Shepton Mallet and needed a refreshing and revitalising cup of tea. As they sat down, we chatted together and I mentioned that I was writing a blog about Tesco and Timpson teaming up. The gentleman, Simon, mentioned that the managing director of Timpson was his God Son. He told me that James Timpson started off, originally, as a shoe retailer but stopped that and moved into repairs, he went on to say that they were good employers and re-trained ex-offenders, so they could have a secure job and re-intergrate into the community. As he mentioned this, the humanity behind the business came into focus, there's a real man with his dreams and visions and his chance to contribute to our society and he's doing it successfully.

Where does that leave us? Where does that leave our much loved High Street, which quite honestly, if it was loved so much, would be used more? What if they were to actually open on the High Street? Maybe we should thank our lucky stars that they are targeting customers for the retail park and they are not plonked on the High Street, I am really not sure what to think. I know the High Street is definitely changing, do we embrace the change, or do we fight for what we know, love and enjoy? If we know we love and enjoy it, then we have to use our money not to 'Support' local businesses but to keep them there and to enjoy them. If you love a local retailer in your High Street, don't keep walking by the shop, thinking that you'll go in there one day. You have to change your habits and make buying things in there a part of your routine. I say that people get the High Street that they deserve, it's the consumer that has the final say in the changing face of market towns. If you shop mindlessly, then you will get an impersonal High Street full of chains.

The way I see it, Shepton Mallet has a wonderful High Street of quirky, independent shops, the Townsend Retail park is an altogether completely different experience, based more on the idea of convenience. The two concepts can live side by side and thrive. I like the idea that I can shop late if I need to at Tesco and pick up a last minute item, or a magazine, they do Sushi and no one else here does, that is very convenient. I've heard it said that when they first applied for planning permission, they said it would be a food only store, I'm not sure if this is the correct information but if no limitations are put on their trading what is the next thing they will do? They are expanding because their market is shrinking. Is their market shrinking because local businesses have closed because Tesco haven't really contributed enough to the regeneration of Shepton Mallet Town? Does that mean that the owners of the small businesses that have closed, can't employ anyone, so unemployment is higher, the town looks more desolate, people have less money, when one trader goes, then there's a knock on effect, for all the traders in town.Traders lose the cross promotion with other businesses and miss out on business from each other in a circular economy that makes sure the money is kept locally. The reason why communities are breaking down and High Streets across the UK look run down is because some landlords keep rents artificially high and because retail parks do NOT contribute to the community enough!

I've been told that there was a promise by Tesco when they first came that they would make sure that the town had maintained hanging baskets of flowers on the High Street, even if there wasn't a promise, why don't they sponsor something like that? The amazing Tesco staff collected over £800 to support Collett Park Festival 2014 but it was Tesco, the company that was asked if they would like to sponsor the festival, amazingly the company itself didn't come up with a bean! Tesco show a lot of support for the community but I'm not sure if it is support from their profits, or whether they profit from the support. Take for instance the Happy Landings Collection point in the store, you buy dog food, or toys, from Tesco and put it into their collection point! I can understand why people feel angry, 'Every Little helps' we just didn't think it meant, every little business and every little contribution from the public and from the staff, helps Tesco to create more profits, diverted away from the community to individuals! Tesco started from a market stall in East London, five years later the name Tesco was formed and the company grew and grew and grew. That entrepreneurial spirit is bound to be admired and respected by most small business owners but when it comes to ethics and morals, it does seem that things have got out of hand.

I feel if Timpson can contribute massively to the economy of the town they are in, if they offer a very basic shoe repair service and recommend the local cobbler for complicated repairs, if they pledge to help and support our town and really give something to the community then they will find their place. At this stage, I personally do not feel that I can support Tesco's application for these new services because of the devastating impact it will have on our Town. I believe that because of this negative impact, that the outlet will not succeed because the local economy will be driven down even further and again the market will shrink and again Tesco will choose to dominate another service and again they will cause the shrinkage in the economy and so on like a spiral, down and down. It is for this reason that I feel I have to oppose the planning application for this outlet.

Please join my Say No to Timpson at Tesco campaign, by clicking on the link below and signing the petition it brings up and sharing with your friends too. Thank you.
Say NO to Timpson at Tesco!

You can also log an objection to the planning application, directly to Mendip Council, using this link:
Application Objections

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