Town centre traders ‘affected’ by Tesco

Joseph Bulmer

‘Takings down since opening of Extra’

BARNSTAPLE town centre traders say they are losing business to a new out-of-town superstore.

More than half of those that responded to a survey about current trading conditions say they had felt an impact since the opening of a Tesco Extra at Seven Brethren Bank in February this year.

Those who had noticed an affect on their business estimated an average loss of 12.5 per cent.

Of 400 surveys sent to businesses by independent traders’ group BID Barnstaple, in conjunction with Barnstaple Town Centre Management, Barnstaple Chamber of Commerce and the North Devon Branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, 58 were returned.

BID Barnstaple and fellow business groups said they had “serious” concerns at the potential arrival of any more supermarkets in the town and in particular at the damage that could be done to the town centre.

The questionnaire asked traders for their thoughts on the expansion of their own businesses against the backdrop of applications by Morrisons and Asda.

BID Barnstaple co-ordinator Sue Rawle said that many traders were unsure whether they would still invest in their business if either store were given planning permission.

She said: “There was quite a lot of concern; many said they would have to consider the question very carefully.

“Many also said they wouldn’t consider employing more staff in the light of any more supermarkets.”

Among the other concerns raised by traders were car parking fees, business rates and the number of charity shops in the town centre.

Most recognised Barnstaple a friendly town with a good range of successful individual shops. Other positives were the low crime rate, traditional market town individuality, and the town’s heritage including pannier market and Butchers’ Row.

Mrs Rawle said a summary of the results would be form part of a retail impact study being carried out by North Devon Council.

“The individual comments will remain confidential but the overall findings will be fed into the district council’s own study,” she said.

“The survey is not perfect by any means but it does give us a good level of feeling from traders.”