Thursday, 23 April 2015

The future of Tesco's in East Devon - part two

Tesco's has just announced a loss of £6.4bn:
Futures Forum: The future of Tesco's in East Devon

The first really bad news started coming out of Tesco's in the New Year - and there were clear implications for Devon:
Tesco to close 43 stores but shops in Tiverton, Cullompton and Crediton are safe | Tiverton Mid Devon Gazette
Exeter Tesco job fears as 10,000 positions culled and 43 stores axed nationwide | Exeter Express and Echo

However, there had already been setbacks for the chain late last year:
Tesco pulls out of Brixham development plans | Torquay Herald Express

This was despite aggressive tactics by the developer:

Under Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco was a relentless machine that opened shops in every postcode in the country. When local communities complained that they did not want a Tesco, the company found ways to get through the planning process. For example, in Barnstaple, Devon, Tesco applied under the name of Brian Ford’s, an independent retailer it had secretly acquired a year earlier.

Sir Terry’s riposte to complaints about Tesco’s dominance was that it only opened where it was wanted or needed. “The reason we are big is that over the years customers have chosen Tesco,” he said in 2006.

However, that word – chosen – is what has now empowered local communities to start a shopping revolution.

How localism toppled Tesco - Telegraph

In other words, people are preferring to 'shop local':

Supermarkets forced to abandon plans for new stores as shopping habits shift

Study shows 25% of UK stores having planning permission cancelled or stalled as consumers choose to shop more locally

Tesco said: 'In response to changing customer shopping habits we have decided to reduce the amount of new space we build each year.' Photograph: Alamy

Simon Goodley Friday 25 July 2014 

A quarter of UK supermarkets granted planning permission during the past five years have either been cancelled or mothballed, new research reveals.

The study commissioned for a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, called Supermarket Wars, which airs on Monday – underlines how the sector is being battered by changing shopping habits, as customers shun large out-of-town stores in favour of smaller convenience stores.

The switch in shoppers' behaviour has caused Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisonsto announce huge write-downs on the value of their property portfolios, as they struggle to work out how to use the millions of square feet of land they have acquired but no longer need.

Plans for 97 new stores have been abandoned or have stalled out of the 400 supermarkets approved by local authorities since 2009, Dispatches has found, with Tesco accounting for 60 of the 97 U-turns.

The figures follow a Guardian study published in June that revealed how Tesco has been hoarding land and buildings on 310 sites and covering an area big enough to build 15,000 homes. Last week the UK's largest supermarket chain said it will begin making use of some of that undeveloped landbank, and announced plans to build 4,000 new homes.

A spokesman for Tesco said: "In response to changing customer shopping habits we have decided to reduce the amount of new space we build each year, building fewer large stores."

Apart from Tesco, the data shows that Sainsbury's has retreated from 11 stores,Aldi from nine, the Co-op from seven and Morrisons from six. In contrast, Asda has abandoned plans for just one new store in the past five years, and a spokesman said: "We've always taken a very cautious approach to property development. We've never been one for land banking."

The programme also found that the supermarkets pulling back from plans has resulted in the cancellation of £7.2m of section 106 planning obligations – the conditions local authorities attach to approving developments which are designed to benefit local communities. The effect means that 182 affordable houses and 314 retirement homes will no longer be built, while contributions to public art and recreational space now do not need to be made.

Tesco added: "The purpose of section 106 agreements is to mitigate the impact that a development would have on a local area. For example, they are often used to compensate for the cost of additional infrastructure that may be required, such as a new road junction. If the development doesn't take place, there is no impact to be mitigated."

Supermarkets forced to abandon plans for new stores as shopping habits shift | Business | The Guardian

Although the Telegraph disagrees:

Don't blame a change in shopping habits, Britain's supermarkets just got it so wrong

Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons are suffering from falling sales in their supermarkets, but strategic blunders, rather than a change in shopping habits, is at the centre of their problems

Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons make up the "Big Four" grocery retailers in Britain Photo: PA

By Graham Ruddick, Retail Editor 20 Nov 2014


“Change is the law of the life,” John F Kennedy said in 1963. “Those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” A narrative has emerged in the UK grocery industry that the chaos engulfing the leading supermarkets is all down to a dramatic change in shopping habits.

British shoppers, so the story goes, have abandoned their weekly food shop. Instead, they are spending their money across different trips to the supermarket, the local convenience store, a discounter, and the internet. There is of course some truth in this. Forecasts by IGD, the industry body, show that spending in superstores and hypermarkets will fall from £73.7bn a year to £70.8bn over the next five years. At the same time, grocery sales will double for discount retailers and online.

Mark Price, the managing director of Waitrose, has said that this represents the biggest change in the industry since the 1950s. That wave of change in the 1950s – which led to growth of Tesco and Sainsbury’s at the expense of the Co-op – was sparked by the invention of the self-service supermarket.

But this time there is a “chicken and egg” debate to be had. Has the change in shopping patterns been sparked by consumers changing their demands? Or has it been led by retailers through the development of new shopping formats and changes in the quality of their stores?

Also, how “seismic” is the change really? The weekly shop is not dead. The IGD forecasts show that supermarkets will still be by far the biggest portion of the grocery industry in 2019, accounting for 35pc of the market. This compares to 24pc for convenience and 10.5pc for discount chains such as Aldi and Lidl.

If the changes are so dramatic, why does the latest Kantar data show that sales are falling for the Co-op, which has more convenience stores than anyone? And why are they falling for Iceland and Farmfoods, two discount retailers? In results published at Companies House this week, Musgrave GB, the owner of Budgens and Londis, reported annual pre-tax losses of £63m. Given the supposed revolution taking place, this convenience store business should be thriving.

The answer to this conundrum is that the performance of these companies is being driven by their strategy and its execution, not a change in shopping habits. The debate about the recasting of Britain’s grocery industry should not mask the fact that Aldi and Lidl have dramatically upped their game. The German discount retailers have invested heavily into introducing more fresh food and more British-sourced goods while keeping prices low. But the debate is must also not mask a series of strategic blunders by Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons in the last few years.

As the quote from JFK highlights, change is part-and-parcel of doing business. It does not necessarily mean that the incumbents in a market will be the worst affected. Frankly, the “Big Four” have got themselves into this mess.

When Mike Coupe, chief executive of Sainsbury’s, presented the company’s interim results last week he warned that sales in supermarket would be falling for years and blamed a fall in profits on the pressures in the industry. In effect, Coupe claimed that Sainsbury’s destiny was out if its hands. This did not go down well with City analysts. David McCarthy at HSBC said: “There seems little reason to hold Sainsbury shares. It is structurally disadvantaged against Tesco, it has declining profits and dividends, and as management blames the industry, recovery is not in its hands.”

McCarthy claimed that Sainsbury’s and its rivals had overseen a “mismanagement of the industry” for the last five years. This mismanagement is summed up by pricing and the crazy number of stores that the “Big Four” have been building.

Tesco has somehow allowed its prices to become 6pc higher than Asda and at least 15pc higher than Aldi on a typical basket of goods. At the same time, the range of products it sells has grown by 31pc in the last 18 months, making shopping at Tesco more complicated. British shoppers have been given fewer reasons to go to Tesco supermarkets. But, this has not stopped Britain’s biggest retailer building more shops. Since Tesco’s market share peaked in 2007, the company has built enough new stores to cover the same space as the whole of Morrisons today, an extraordinary statistic.

However, Tesco is not alone in building too many stores. All of the “Big Four” have wasted billions of pounds on new stores without growing their market share since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. With hindsight, Sainsbury’s £445m rights issue in 2009 to fund expansion now looks like one of Justin King’s worst moves as chief executive. Sainsbury’s warned earlier this month that one in four of its stores will struggle over the next five years.

An in-depth report by Goldman Sachs this week laid bare the mess supermarkets are in. The analysts, led by Rob Joyce, said the listed trio of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons had been “addicted to space” and now need to close one in five shops.

A damning series of charts laid out their failures on price and opening too many stores. Since 2004, the UK grocers had passed on food inflation significantly ahead of European rivals, with food consumer price inflation (CPI) of 4pc compared to 2.6pc in second-place Spain and 1.1pc in the Netherlands. This error has been compounded by the fact that between 2005 and 2013 the supermarkets expanded their capacity by 50pc, despite UK grocery sales only growing by 32pc. Goldman’s conclusion is that these factors left supermarkets exposed to the structural changes in the market as convenience stores, the internet, and the German discounters emerged as challenges.

But, interestingly, the change in shopping habits has been accelerated by the “Big Four” themselves – they have opened thousands of convenience stores, developed online food shopping, and encouraged consumers to trust own-label food rather than brands, which has opened the door for the discounters Aldi and Lidl.

In effect, Britain’s leading supermarket retailers fuelled the changes taking place and then failed to take advantage. The Big Four have been eating themselves.

Don't blame a change in shopping habits, Britain's supermarkets just got it so wrong - Telegraph

So, what will happen to the 'new store' in Budleigh Salterton?
Fears new Tesco could hurt family shops - News - Exmouth Journal

And what will happen to the 'new development' in Seaton?

It's a long, long story - but where will it end?
Tesco invades Seaton – closing the nursery and holiday village - Home News - UK - The Independent (March 2008)
Stand Up For Seaton (SU4S): September 2009
09/0019/MFUL | Erection of retail store (5,996 sq m gross) with petrol filling station, with assorted car parking, pedestrian and vehicular and vehicular access and landscaping | Land Adjacent Harbour Road Seaton Devon (September 2009)
Every Little Helps: Tesco Building 'Towns' (May 2010)
THE PEOPLE’S MARKET – Anti-Tescos Guerilla Market, Seaton Devon, 17 April 2012 (April 2010)
Tesco withdraws offer of affordable housing as part of East Devon seaside development plans | Exeter Express and Echo (August 2013)
Geriatric Ghetto on the Tesco site ? | Seaton Development Trust (May 2014)

This is from the Guardian from May 2010 - on the day before the general election:

'This town has been sold to Tesco'

Are towns built by the UK's leading supermarket the future of urban development?

Sandra Semple, mayor of Seaton, is opposing Tesco’s proposals to build a superstore, hundreds of homes and a hotel in the Devon town. Photograph: Mark Passmore/Apex

Anna Minton Wednesday 5 May 2010 Last modified on Tuesday 27 January 2015


Imagine living in a Tesco house, sending your child to a Tesco school, swimming in a Tesco pool and, of course, shopping at the local Tesco superstore. According to the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Cabe), the government's adviser on architecture and design, this collective monopoly is not an imaginary dystopia. "Tesco Towns" on this model are already being planned across the UK, from Inverness in Scotland to Seaton in Devon.

While the economic downturn has hit many parts of the development industry hard, Tesco recorded profits of nearly £3.4bn last year. Its plans for expansion are reflected by a growing tide of what are described as "supermarket-led mixed-use development proposals" – entire districts of homes, schools and public places built by the company.

Cabe is aware of plans for 3,656 new Tesco homes, an increase of 1,300% on the 283 homes built by the supermarket giant between 1996 and 2009. This huge rise – which represents only nine new schemes – is a fraction of the total planned, as Cabe does not see every scheme. Indeed, Tesco recently announced it aims to ramp up its superstore expansion by 40%, largely as a result of the mixed-use development.

Yet when house building is at its lowest level since 1923, more than 4.5 million people are on waiting lists for social housing and the number of families in temporary accommodation are up by a third in the last decade, shouldn't we welcome anyone building new homes, especially when a percentage will be earmarked as affordable housing?

Sir John Sorrell, the outgoing chair of Cabe, however, questions the quality of the proposed developments. "Retailers don't just want to build a new supermarket nowadays. They want to redevelop town centres, with housing and shopping streets," he warned in his valedictory speech at the end of last year. "Our concern is not only the quality of this kind of development – which is generally very poor – but the way in which architecture and places are created in the image of the retailer."

In Bromley-by-Bow, east London, a Tesco superstore, shops, primary school and hundreds of homes are planned. In Trafford, Manchester, a 168,000 sq ft Tesco will dominate a 50-acre site. Love Lane, Woolwich, and the Streatham Hub development, both in south London, and Queen's Square in West Bromwich are all home to similar proposed Tesco developments that are in partnership with the local authority. And in Seaton, a small seaside town in east Devon, a superstore, hundreds of homes and a hotel recently received planning permission.

Sandra Semple, the mayor of Seaton, is one of eight independent councillors elected on a platform opposing the proposals. Seaton, she says, is a traditional seaside town of 7,500 people on a World Heritage coast. "It's an old-fashioned town on a gorgeous bay, with nothing but individual shops, and no chainstores. Every other store is an individual trader," she says.

She points out that there are already 15 Tescos within 25 miles of Seaton, and says: "The town has always been against this, but the Tory-run district council completely refused to hear our arguments and says Tesco is the only company capable of regenerating our town. This will be an entire place. It's about 20 hectares – an enormous piece of land. This town has been sold to Tesco. We are not at the moment a 'Tesco Town', but this will make us one. We've lost our individuality, our identity – the very things that make this place special."

The irony is that there is little evidence that the superstores themselves want to create entire communities. Instead, policy is pushing them in that direction, with local authorities prepared to grant permission for superstores they may have previously refused, as long as they are accompanied by the sweetener of housing, schools and sports facilities, which the councils don't have the funds to provide.

This is what happened in Trafford in March, when a 168,000 sq ft store and accompanying development was granted planning permission, although an application for an 89,000 sq ft store on the same site was refused in 2006. The difference is that this time the redevelopment of Lancashire county cricket club is part of the scheme. Friends of the Earth says the council's desire to develop the cricket ground "has been used as an excuse to back a superstore development which would otherwise be ruled out for its unacceptable negative impact". It's a similar story in St Helens, Merseyside, where Tesco is building a stadium for St Helens rugby league club, but the new superstore and massive car park will dominate, relegating the stadium to round the back of the site.

Cabe has attacked Tesco's plans, in partnership with the Thames Gateway Development Corporation, for a new district centre, including hundreds of homes and a school, in Bromley-by-Bow, pointing out that the housing overlooks either the motorway or the superstore, and that Tesco lorries heading for the servicing entrance would cut across the children's route to the primary school.

In this instance, Tesco has gone back to the drawing board, but Cabe is critical that a new district centre should be created on the site at all. Hans van der Heijden, a Dutch architect who also works in Britain, explains why: "It is slightly absurd to make private enterprises responsible for things that are, in the end, public. The interesting comparison is with other private enterprises that created places such as the garden cities, but in those instances there was an element of charity at work related to some form of emancipation and public interest. That seems to be absent here. It's a money machine."

How has this absurd approach to development – an anathema in mainland Europe – been allowed to take root? One reason is the bartering culture that developed between councils and developers as a result of the introduction of "planning gain" – or section 106, as it is known – by the Conservatives in the early 1990s. Since then, it has been customary for local authorities to negotiate with developers over the amount of community infrastructure they are willing to provide to accompany a development, including affordable housing, new roads and sports facilities. For supermarkets wishing to build very large stores in towns and cities, offering such infrastructure, including schools, has seemed like a natural extension of this policy.

Another key factor is changes to planning policy made in 2004, when the benchmark test that a new development should be in line with "public benefit" was quietly dropped in favour of "economic benefit".

The Conservatives have voiced unease about Tesco Towns. Bob Neill, shadow minister for local government and planning, says: "I am concerned that the rise of so-called supermarket towns will lead to developments where small retailers have no place or face uncompetitive rents. Planning rules must be amended to allow councils to take into account the benefits of greater competition and the need to protect small business." The party has pledged to introduce greater local participation in planning through its "open source" proposals if it wins tomorrow's general election.

But Neil Sinden, director of policy at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, says the aspiration to return planning decisions to the local level is in contrast to the opening section of the Conservative manifesto, which emphasises that the planning system is a barrier to economic development. With the Tory planning proposals also including financial incentives for councils to provide more housing and development, Sinden believes they are unlikely to halt the onward march of Tesco Towns.

It is possible that Liberal Democrat plans for a third-party right of appeal for local interest groups would support struggles in places such as Seaton, but the detail is unavailable, while Labour is wholly behind the current approach, confirming that it allows councils to generate growth.

Sinden fears that, whatever the outcome of the election, Tesco Towns are the face of future urban development: "I don't see this going away. It's not featuring in any of the parties' thinking when it comes to reform of the planning system." What strikes him is that although there is "huge public engagement", in policy terms "it's an issue which at the moment is being swept under the carpet".

Semple, who challenged the local authority head on, felt that every effort was made to muzzle her. "A regeneration board was set up, and I was one of the members, but I was told that my presence was no longer desired because I had the wrong attitude. I was asked to resign."

Tesco denies that its developments are poor quality and that the scale of development is new. A spokesman for the company says Tesco has been providing much-needed mixed use development since 1997 in deprived areas. "These are urban areas which have not received investment for a number of years. We are willing to invest, and that kind of investment has to be applauded and welcomed. We're looking at providing more than 2,000 jobs in these areas that can benefit the community for years to come. He adds: "Councils are very welcoming because we are bringing in jobs and investment."

• Anna Minton is the author of Ground Control: Fear and Happiness in the Twenty-first-century City, published by Penguin, £9.99. To order a copy for £8.99, including UK mainland p&p, go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop or call 0330 333 6846.

Anna Minton has also written a scathing report on the 'dirty tricks and sham local consultations' - in which a whole chapter is devoted to the 'East Devon mafia':
New report: Scaring the living daylights out of people

The question is whether there will be changes in the 'planning system' at East Devon after 7th May...

A Quiet Word: Lobbying, Crony Capitalism and Broken Politics in Britain - Tamasin Cave, Christopher Rowell, Andy Rowell - Google Books
A Quiet Word: Lobbying, Crony Capitalism and Broken Politics in Britain by Tamasin Cave and Andy Rowell, review - Telegraph

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