On the contrary, the stores we have opened have had the opposite effect, rejuvenating the local area. For example, in Headcorn, the Local store has increased the number of customers visiting the area, creating spin- off benefits that all traders can benefit from.
Independent retail research groups have also supported this view and, furthermore, each store creates approximately 50 new jobs.
Local stores are designed to cater for local needs and make a valuable contribution to the life of the community. Generally, people are working harder and longer hours and want to spend less time on chores such as shopping and cooking. A McCann Erickson survey this year revealed that the average time to prepare a meal will be reduced from 30 minutes to 11 minutes by 2008. Our Local stores have been designed to fulfil this need, offering quick and easy meal solutions and top-up shopping.
We see Sainsbury's Local as complimenting our supermarket business. Our roll-out programme will strengthen our brand by taking Sainsbury's values of quality, freshness and service and making them more accessible.
It should also be noted that already almost 60 per cent of Sainsbury's stores are in shopping centres or on the edge of town. It is certainly true that the revised government guidelines on planning introduced four years ago have led us to review the siting of our stores. However, our main development programme is still strong. We believe that our response to changing planning guidelines - developing six different formats - is the best of any UK food retailer.