It’s a red letter day in Liverpool today. But, lest you get too excited, the letters in question are two metres tall and spell out T-E-S-C-O.

You’ll spot them at the new Tesco Extra store in the Dingle’s Park Road – once home to the defunct Mecca Bingo and now the site for Liverpool’s biggest ever Tesco: all 5369 square meters of it.

And so our love affair with Terry Leahy’s retail behemoth continues. It’s the single biggest investment in the area following the Toxteth Riots almost exactly 30 years ago. But at what cost to local business?

Trader and businessman, Mark Granby runs Arthur J Granby & Son, one of Liverpool’s longest established butchers. But you’ll not see his name on our city’s shopping streets any more.

After the death of his father 17 years ago, the traditional butchers firm went into receivership before Mark re-invested and refocused. Now operating out of Brunswick Business Park, Mark’s pragmatic about the shifting sands of the city’s retail fortunes.

For him, and his business, survival offered a stark choice: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

“We had to adapt to the climate,” he tells SevenStreets. “So we now supply to manufacturers who provide supermarket meals and soups. We’re part of the supply chain now. I think we’d struggle with a retail outfit.”

Mr Granby started in the meat business 34 years ago. As a boy, he used to help his dad run the trade counters and shops he successfully operated throughout Kensington and the south of the city. But, year on year, Mark saw his dad’s shops and counters closing down as the big boys increased their grip on our purses, and change the way we shopped for ever.

“There’s not much we can do to protect or preserve local business anymore,” Mark says. “People want value for money. Times are tough. You have to focus on value and embrace the changes. We’ve got a good local staff, supplying national markets. I don’t see chains like Tesco as a bad thing. It’s progress.”

Veteran fruit and veg man, Alan Bilsborough had 18 sites all over Liverpool over a period of 40 years. Now based at the bottom of Lark Lane, he runs a small stall which remains a firm favourite with locals.

“I try to keep prices below supermarket prices, and that means I make a smaller profit, but it’s the only way to stay in the game.”

“People used to go to St.Johns Food Hall for all their fish, meat and fruit and veg,” Alan says. “Now there’s only one greengrocer and one fishmonger left.”

So what of the new Tesco? When the £30million development was approved, there were the usual objections from local newsagents, pharmacists and mini-markets fearing the worst – and with good reason: when Tesco Express opened on Crosby Road, within six months, six local stores shut up shop for good.

Enter the ‘Tesco Regeneration Partnership’ – part of a deal Tesco had to strike before they were given the green light.

The package included promises of a £600,000 landscaping project, and a few hundred jobs for an area that’s suffered more than most. Of course, with Tesco, the vast majority of these jobs will be part-time.

And when it comes to promises, well, Tesco have gone back on their word before: their promise to restrict opening hours in their Allerton Road store (to give local businesses a fighting chance) lasted only fractionally longer than their on-the-vine tomatoes.

Despite this, Liverpool City Councilor, Alan Dean was in buoyant mood: “It’s very rewarding to see so many people who have gone from having no job – some for a considerable period of time – to making a commitment to improving their skills and becoming valuable employees with a much brighter future ahead of them.”

“This is a clear demonstration that regeneration is not just about investment in buildings, important though that is, but is also about enabling people to benefit from and contribute to the economic improvements in the area.”

And, commenting on the impact they’re likely to have on local traders, Matt Magee, corporate affairs manager at Tesco emphasised how they’ll be working with local traders to make sure they benefit from the increased footfall the store will bring to the area.

“It is a massive investment in a very deprived area of Liverpool and we expect wider knock on regeneration to occur as a result,” he said.

“The area around Toxteth/Dingle is devoid of significant foodstore provision, and has lacked investment for many years.

“We are building the store in a district centre. This means that our store will support the other businesses in that local centre as more people choose to shop on Park Road rather than driving elsewhere.”

Let’s hope he’s right. This area of town sorely needs investment, of that there is no doubt. Tesco might be an unlikely saviour – but with a pledge to support local businesses with new zebra crossings, new shop signs, shutters and lighting (in an estimated windfall of £15,000 per business) maybe every little helps.

Holly Simons

  • Ohno

    The social and economic problems in deprived areas of Liverpool are deep rooted and complex. It’s a good job Tesco is here to save the day.
    Tesco is a global, multi billion pound brand. It is not a charity or public service. It makes grand gestures to appease local residents everytime it faces opposition of opening in a new store. In a few years time I doubt that the community work will be sustained. Tesco is renowed for making grand gestures and then breaking its promises once the store is up and running.
    Supermarkets are continually killing independent businesses all over the country. Tesco’s aggressive ploy of over-saturating areas with their stores is a deliberate tactic to do just that.
    If you shop in independent shops, the money stays in the area, helps the local economy improve and the products are more likely to be locally sourced. If you shop in Tesco the money goes out of the local community in the in the pockets of the fat cats in their head office. And aids the exploitation of people all over the world who make their products.
    http://www.tescopoly.org/

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  • Mark Spencer

    I shop with local traders, and I shop with Tescos too.

    That area in Dingle was totally abandoned, it was a depressing playground for junkies and winos, so I’d rather have a Tescos there than nothing. Like it or not, Dingle will be a little bit better for having Tesco there!!!

    Let’s just hope there’ll be no anti-Tescos riots like in Bristol. Probably not – after all, we don’t have that many crusty vegan ravers in Dingle…

  • Andy Lycett

    Living in Litherland not far from a new and very large supertanker of a Tesco which has already caused a 30 year established petrol station to close, to reduce the nearby Spar convenience store to become a hang out for hopeful 14 year old alcopop purchasers. The only shops which still thrive in the row is the ‘Chippy’ and the Bookies, so what next for ‘Leahys Behemoth?’ a gambling den where you buy chips as well as bet with them? Actually…..anyone got Peter Jones telephone number??

  • James Kirkham

    “The area around Toxteth/Dingle is devoid of significant foodstore provision…”

    Apart from the mid-size Co-Op supermarket literally opposite this new Tesco, I suppose?

  • http://atticfantasist.blogspot.com/ Christopher Madden

    The better option for all concerned in the Dingle would have been a bigger Co-op. But this chain doesn’t build as big as Tesco. This might have unleashed a few ideas about what to do wit the rest of the land supposing the Co-op were willing to build a store as big as their one in Carterton, Oxfordshire, for example (the biggest one I’ve ever seen). A market space for the traders who once used the abandoned land every week? A new community centre? And the pollution would have been much lower for the residents if the Co-op had built instead of that monstrosity about to open. What frustrates anti-Tesco campaigners is the fact that in Liverpool there is so much talk about ‘other options’ when discussing proposed Tesco stores, but in the end it’s Tesco stores that almost always get built. Look at the Allerton Road Tesco in the old Woolworths. Very sad indeed, given the alternative proposal to have a quality market hall that would have brought local traders together in the same space, offering something different, something that would have gone down well in that area.

  • Jack

    So who approves them in the end? Is it all about who offers the most money? I read about that market arcade scheme in Allerton. It sounded great on paper, but I wonder whether it was viable in the long term? A nice idea, but not somewhere you can rely on to get your bread and milk. Shame though

  • Shura Bedro

    What a terrific piece of writing. A well researched and critiqued piece of work. Well done, mayhap someone will see this and want to add you to their employ.

  • Ohno

    I guess it must come down to money. And it can’t hurt that Tesco’s boss is a member of the board for Liverpool Vision.

    I think Allerton Road would have been a perfect location for the market emporium. There were already places nearby that people could rely on for bread and milk (ie, 3 other Tescos!).

  • James

    A proper supermarket is ok, as it will bring more people to the area that wouldn’t have gone there before.

    It’s the Tesco metros which are just vile in my view. It’s my guess they not only take trade away from small independents, but I believe they also bring an epidemic clink clink of younger people with drink problems (and yes, they DO have health damaging drink problems to be consuming what they do) to neighbourhoods tottering out with their plastic bags filled with the latest ‘deals’.

    Before Tesco we had (and still do have) a Sainsburys, and I noticed a distinct shift and increase in the number of such people in my area when Tesco opened.