A letter concerning the proposed Sainsbury’s in the Cattle Market.
We are so lucky to be able to shop in a town with character, charm and interest, with its wide High Street and plethora of small independent shops.
Thame has done well to survive the twin onslaught of Internet Trading and Supermarkets that has been a blight on many other shopping areas.
There is no doubt that the Internet is offering unlimited range and convenience of doorstep delivery and the ‘everything all under one roof/next to your car’ of the Supermarket offer is tempting customers away from the High Street. Add in a recession and all becomes more difficult.
Even in Thame, long gone are the greengrocer, baker, music shop and now a toys shop and a couple of Pubs.
Many High Streets in the country are plagued with empty shops with little hope of them being let. So bad is it, Mary Portas, Queen of Shops, has been asked to investigate to see what action should be taken.
But for Thame, all could soon change, Sainsbury is coming to town with a BIG store or so they hope, with 22,000sq ft of sales space and with a glossy brochure they seek our views and support.
The critical question must be – Can the High Street of Thame survive the addition of such an enormous new store – will the Town support a massive increase in extra retail space?
Sainsbury claim that it will mean that the ‘food shopping spend’ will remain in Thame or do they mean the ‘shopping spend’ will remain in Sainsbury’s?
And if so, at what cost to other retailers?
We should be under no illusion that once their 22,000 sq ft store opens, Thame will quickly see the closure of smaller specialist shops.
In what will appear as the blink of an eye, gone will go, the Deli’s, the off-licence, a butcher or two and then the confectioners.
Will it stop there? Sainsbury are on record as saying they wish to significantly increase their more profitable ‘non-food offer’ so what of the clothes shops, card shops and, as Sainsbury received the ‘Bookseller of the Year award’ the bookshop?
The ‘Bookseller of the Year’ award to a grocer – a modern conundrum!
How will that be more choice?
So, who will take on the vacant units, will it be Thomas Cook travel agents or more Banks and Building Societies? Doubt it! So, it could be more Charity shops, but not if Mary Portas gets her way, we have the quota of six already.
Sainsbury will bring extra jobs to town as they increase the numbers of Colleagues, Associates or whatever name they give to the shelf fillers and till operators [not many till operators as you now do it yourself]. But will the extra jobs in Sainsbury make up for those independent traders who lay staff off or go bankrupt?
The Retail Trade is not vastly profitable, most only realise between 6% to 10% of ex-VAT turnover.
Only 6p to 10p from each £1.00 of ex-VAT sales is left to reward the owner and shareholder or for reinvestment.
We should not forget that retailers act as unpaid tax collectors and for every £1.20 in sales at the till upwards of 20p goes to HM Revenue as VAT payment.
Typically, a retailer will, for every £1.00 in ex-VAT sales, spend 55p in buying the goods they sell, 20p in rent and other occupation costs, 12p on staff costs and 4p in other miscellaneous costs add in discounts and write offs - there ain’t much left.
A small drop in sales quickly wipes away all profit, so 22,000 sq ft of new sales space just around the corner.
Still Sainsbury’s will arrive soon and we should not forget that we will have a new pavement and a Community centre funded from their profits made from our purchases we will make in their store.
Then, of course, we will have a nice warm feeling as we generously contribute to the £1m+ salary package that Justin King, CEO of Sainsbury’s is given each year.
Perhaps the residents and shoppers in Thame need to engage in a thoughtful and serious debate on the quality of our town centre shopping and how we wish its future to be.
I have my concerns that the cost will be too great.