If the 1980s were the era of headlong growth in large out-of-town superstores, with large car parks, dry cleaners and creches, the Nineties are about countering the twin threat of stricter planning on superstores and the in-roads made by the discount groups such as Aldi, Netto and Lidl that have invaded from the Continent.
There are more than 1,500 discount store groups in Britain offering a cheap, no-frills service on a limited range of goods. Having started in the Midlands and the North, the big discounters are moving further south and into London.
Although the number of superstores continues to grow - there are 930 compared with only 578 in 1989 - future growth lies elsewhere. In January, Sainsbury's showed one way forward when it diversified further into the DIY market with the £290m acquisition of Texas Homecare. Tesco showed yesterday that its strategy is also working.
Two or three years ago, Tesco was spending about £1bn on new openings, nearly all superstores. This year it will spend £600,000, halfon other formats.
Tesco Metro has proved a success, offering "added value" items such as sandwiches and ready-made meals to office workers. The Express format of a convenience store alongside a petrol station has enjoyed a successful test and will be extended. This is not a wholesale return to the high street but a move to take advantage of opportunities on busy city-centre locations.
In superstores all the big supermarket operators have respondedwith their own budget lines.The message is that if customers want to save money they can.